Hamilton admitted that he had not been told that Verstappen was letting him through, which could explain why he was surprised and failed to take avoiding action in time. But he insisted the Dutchman was so aggressive with his braking he left him nowhere to go.
“I didn’t get the information [that Verstappen was letting him through] so it was very confusing and was he trying to play some crazy tactic? Then he hit the brakes so hard and I nearly went up the back of him.
“For him, it does not matter if we both don’t finish but for me we both need to finish. I’m personally chilled. I feel like I’m in the boxing ring and I’m ready to go.”
Hamilton, who suffered damage to his front wing as a result of the contact, went on to pass his rival on lap 43 of 50. And his victory ensures the title race will go down to the wire. But the race left a sour taste in the mouth of almost everyone concerned, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner effectively accusing race director Michael Masi of having lost control. Masi was heard negotiating with Red Bull during the second red flag period, discussing what might be acceptable as punishment for Verstappen overtaking off the track.
“The sport missed Charlie Whiting today,” said Horner, referring to the FIA’s longstanding and much-respected race director who died in 2019.
“We’re over-regulated,” Horner said. “There are rules about 10 car lengths, a formation lap isn’t a formation lap if it’s a restart.. It just feels there are too many rules. It felt like today the sport missed Charlie Whiting, I’m sorry to say. But the experience he had…
“It’s obviously frustrating, it’s difficult for Michael and the stewards, particularly at this type of venue and circuit, with the amount of debris and types of corner. It’s the same for everybody.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was equally worked up by the end of a chaotic race, concluding that the race, while dramatic, was not a good advertisement for the sport. “Lewis deserved it,” he said. “He could’ve been out a few times with a broken wing. That was spectacular, but not good racing.
“The telemetry shows he [Verstappen] is slowing down, then accelerated, then slowing down again. Lewis did not know [if he was being allowed to move ahead], it’s the wrong sequence of messages.
“We need to look at the stewards and they look at the telemetry and come to a judgement. It was a degree of frustration and I need to reserve judgement until I’ve seen the race again tomorrow.
“The driving needs to be assessed and looked at. It is hard, very hard, maybe over the line. We just want to have a clean championship and the best man wins.
“If it is Max, I’m at peace with that but we need it to be a fair race. Max has more wins so it’s still an advantage. It’s important to have a great, great race at the end of the season, with two fantastic drivers racing each other. It’s going down to the wire and that’s how it should be.”