How Hamilton and Verstappen’s roughest scrap yet played out on the radio

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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It wasn’t the lap 37 collision or even the lap 17 restart where the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix turned into a Mercedes-versus-Red Bull feud. The first shots came before Mercedes made their first pit stops.

Lewis Hamilton led the early laps from Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, while championship leader Max Verstappen sat a frustrated third. But Mercedes’ control of proceedings ended when the Safety Car was summoned for Mick Schumacher’s crash, and many teams chose to pit.

Behind the Safety Car, Bottas slowed down to create enough of a gap to Hamilton that they could double stack in the pit lane. This was to the disgust of Verstappen and his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

Lap Speaker Text
10 Verstappen Valtteri is running massively off the pace.
10 Lambiase I agree, it’s a piss-take. Absolute piss-take. Stay out, Max, stay out.

Red Bull’s decision to stay out put Verstappen in the lead, and the red flag that followed meant he was able to change tyres on the grid for the restart.

Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles reassured Hamilton the race was not lost.

The ball was now in Red Bull’s court. Ahead of the restart both teams pointed accusing fingers at each other. Hamilton claimed Verstappen illegally performed a practice start in the pits while the leader claimed his rival had fallen too far behind him:

Lap Speaker Text
13 Vowes Hi Lewis, the main thing is this. Everyone’s going to go to the end of the race on these hard tyres now, but you had car pace at the beginning, and there’s a few options we can throw in there with additional VSCs and Safety Cars. The main thing for now is pressure him, you have car pace.
Lap Speaker Text
13 Verstappen Wait, it’s still more than 10 car [length]s. This is not allowed.

The needle between the title-contending drivers properly kicked off on the restart as Verstappen was beaten off the line and went to repass Hamilton around the outside of turn one. There wasn’t enough room and he went off-track at the exit, and as he rejoined at turn two his steering wheel was at full lock but he came off the throttle as he reappeared straight into Hamilton’s path.

Once Hamilton had opened up his steering to avoid a clash, Verstappen put the power down and an opportunistic Esteban Ocon passed the Mercedes. Then chaos behind led to yellow and then red flags, and meant there would be another restart.

While Hamilton stayed in the cockpit, keeping his communications with the team on the radio, Verstappen had been adamant to jump out of his car as quickly as possible on both stoppages so he could communicate with his team in private.

During this time the Red Bull radio channels were still busy, as race director Michael Masi was minded to report Verstappen to the stewards for his off-track pass. Masi gave Red Bull the opportunity to drop Verstappen back behind Hamilton (and therefore Ocon).

Red Bull agreed, so Verstappen lined up behind Ocon and Hamilton on the new grid. But to give their man the best chance of regaining the lead at the start, Red Bull put him back on medium. Mercedes and Alpine stuck with hards, expecting that would be the best tyre for the rest of the race.

Lap Speaker Text
15 Hamilton How long is the race? What’s the reason we didn’t put on the new medium?
15 Bonnington We’ve got 35 laps remaining, Lewis. This is the correct tyre.
15 Hamilton I’ll lose places off the grid.
15 Bonnington That last start was very competitive. We’re going for a standing start.

However this time Verstappen dived down the inside on the restart to overtake Hamilton and kept it on track, having been a tenth of a second faster off the line than his rival.

Hamilton feared the worst, suspecting his hard tyres would leave him at a disadvantage.

Lap Speaker Text
18 Hamilton No way we can keep up with the tyres. We should have stopped for mediums.

A Virtual Safety Car period broke Verstappen’s rhythm up front as he approached backmarkers to lap for the first time, and he had Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen ahead of him when a second VSC period began on lap 30.

Lap Speaker Text
31 Verstappen Why’s Kimi not speeding up. What the fuck?

The gap between the top two went from two seconds down to 0.7s over the duration of the second VSC, with Verstappen waiting to quite literally get the green light to lap Raikkonen.

Lap Speaker Text
30 Bonnington And Lewis on the restart, you can use strat five or seven, and overtake where appropriate.

There was one more VSC period, and Hamilton was on Verstappen’s gearbox as it ended on lap 36. He didn’t line up a move until turn one next time around though, going to the outside and having his nose briefly ahead. Verstappen braked late and his right-rear didn’t grip the track, crowding Hamilton off the track as he oversteered off too.

Lap Speaker Text
36 Hamilton That guy is crazy, man.

Verstappen had a gap as he got to turn two, but Red Bull was in his ear at turn 22.

Lap Speaker Text
36 Lambiase Max, so let’s give the position back to Hamilton. Obviously do that strategically. Give the position back.

Verstappen slowed on the run to turn 27. Hamilton hesitated behind him, unwilling to be suckered into passing the Red Bull immediately before the DRS detection line and allowing his rival an easy re-pass.

At around the same time Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington was told Red Bull were going to let him by.

Verstappen then dropped several gears and got on the brakes early. Footage from Hamilton’s car shows Bonnington began talking to him just after he had to brake and flick his car to the left, clipping Verstappen’s car, damaging his front wing endplate.

Lap Speaker Text
36 Bonnington So they’re asking Max to swap positions.
36 Hamilton He just brake-tested me.
37 Lambiase I don’t know what’s going on here, Max. We tried to let him past. He’s not going past.

The next lap was tense, but with the TV direction all on the lead battle it gave Mercedes a good chance to examine the damage.

Lap Speaker Text
37 Bonnington He was told to give you the pass.
37 Hamilton I’ve just hit him, man, my wing’s broken.
37 Bonnington It’s okay, it looks okay, he’s been told to give you the position.
37 Hamilton He just brake-tested me. I don’t know what’s going on.
37 Hamilton It’s just dangerous driving, dude.
37 Hamilton I’ve got some damage on my car.
37 Bonnington It’s only front wing endplate. Looks light.

Verstappen had a lead of nearly two seconds next time by, and Hamilton said he couldn’t keep up. After another two laps the nerves were only growing.

Lap Speaker Text
39 Hamilton Let me know where I’m losing. What’s happened?
39 Bonnington Our losses are only turns eight, nine, 10, 22.

Hamilton’s victory hopes then returned as Verstappen was messaged at turn 22 on the next lap.

Lap Speaker Text
41 Lambiase Max can you let Hamilton through on the exit of 23. Just let him through now as soon as you can. Let him through. Max

Again, Hamilton received his message just as Verstappen conceded position, at the same place as where they clashed – and then immediately reclaimed it by diving down the inside of the final corner.

A 5s penalty was issued to Verstappen on lap 43 for his earlier turn one off, and he turned on his rear rain light – which hadn’t been in constant use through the race – as Hamilton approached him again nearing the lap-ending turn 27.

Lap Speaker Text
42 Lambiase For your info, we have been given a five-second time penalty. So that’s just for the moment.

Hamilton went down the inside and ran as deep as possible, then started to pull away. Two laps later, the medium-shod Verstappen explained why.

Lap Speaker Text
44 Verstappen My rear tyres are gone.
44 Lambiase Okay, Max, at the moment, we cannot pit because the gap to Ocon is insufficient.

The hard tyres were lasting better for Hamilton, and with a decreasing fuel load he even clinched the extra point for fastest lap with his broken front wing. But Mercedes couldn’t relaxed even as his lead went past eight seconds, with both he and Verstappen being told to avoid kerbs and manage the pace to avoid a late puncture and more drama.

Hamilton finished the 50-lap race with 6.825s in hand, which eventually grew by 15s Verstappen was given a 10s penalty for the turn 27 crash in addition to his earlier sanction.

But while he’d lost the race, Verstappen had won the race’s Driver of the Day poll, and was informed by F1 on his way back to the pits.

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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59 comments on “How Hamilton and Verstappen’s roughest scrap yet played out on the radio”

  1. Interesting how those messages show, again and again, Hamilton’s lack of confidence in Mercedes’ strategic team. But the radio messages worth a read would be those between Masi and teams.

    1. Yes yes, we should just have robots driving the cars, obeying every decision, never questioning anything!

      1. Bit dramatic. Hes correct! He wasnt saying Lewis shoykdnt question his team, just that he does. He has reason to. They haven’t always made the correct t decisions. No need to be so jumpy.

    2. Lewis usually gets it right on knife-edge calls because he’s in the car, he feels the track and has lots of experience. This time around he wasn’t correct, but given the immense pressure and the unknown track, we should give him a break. Maybe he feared a red flag later in the race, which would have given Max an escape from those mediums (again).

  2. RBR really lost the race by going to the mediums. Those were never going to last even if he got ahead. Of course that came into view because of verstappens off track passing antics.

    That also took away what I was expecting to be a move by RBR try to do a Hungary/France move and come back at Hamilton late with new mediums. Which had a higher chance of working if another full SC came which seemed in the cards. Hamilton would be a sitting duck on a rolling restart in that scenario.

    You get the impression that from the the Saturday crash before which Verstappen seemed to be in control of things their whole posture became desperate and anxious and reactive. Their only play seemed to be to run Hamilton off the road.

    1. @dmw The way things played out, yes, they did. But it’s not hard to imagine how that race could have played out differently with more Safety Cars, VSCs and red flags. I thought it was a gamble worth taking to get him back in the lead from third on the final restart grid.

    2. @dmw I thought it was a smart move to put Verstappen on the mediums. Norris had a much better first start than the drivers around him, being the only one on soft, so it was clear that a softer compound would mean a better launch from the start. It was the best opportunity for Verstappen to pass Hamilton, and it happened. I agree with you that the mediums didn’t hold until the end, but who knows how many (virtual) safety cars would come?

      1. @dmw Have to agree with @keithcollantine and @matthijs, the mediums were his best option to get more than third (or 2nd, bc. Ocon wasn’t in that fight) at the restart, and since Verstappen ended 2nd, well, he didn’t lose out wrt. the ‘default’ he could expect, while with a different set of VCS and SC’s or red flags he might well have gotten a win somehow.

    3. @dmw the mediums did work for some other drivers that could bring them in more gently, like Bottas. The problem was that Hamilton was pushing him so he didn’t have that option.

      1. Indeed, was thinking about that too during the race: he can’t really make those tyres go to the end having to defend this much.

      2. Agree, at one point I heard Sky say that Mediums would last 30 laps and there was close to 30 laps to go when he switched. Keeping in front of LH and pulling out a lead in Sector 1 every lap shortened the life of his rubber. It was going to be a long shot to keep LH behind max.

    4. I believe Max would have lost on hards as well, the Merc in the hands of Lewis was in a different league. Lewis was able to do a fastest lap of 1:30:7xx, with a broken endplate that apparently cost him half a second per lap. That was a full second faster than what Max was able to do when his medium tires were still decent.

  3. So there you have it rbull confirm do it strategically lap 36. What a shame

  4. I think the cherry on the cake of the Max ‘my corner or we crash’ show was when he showed real class by just walking of the podium sulking about getting so many just deserved penalties that were effectively not penalties at all.
    Tune in next week to see Max spend 55 laps trying to torpedo Car 44…

    1. In your style, let’s hope he can do a Hamilton move (c) Silverstone style then.

      1. Doubtful, he tried that 3 times on Sunday and once in Brasil, Lewis is wise to it ;-)

      2. Garett Hostin
        7th December 2021, 15:50

        All max had to do was to avoid an avoidable accident but he didn’t. he went with the mantra of ‘my corner or we crash’ and the result is what he wanted. Had he used his head by moving left and following behind to try an overtake later, he would already be world champion today whether he had finished second or first.

        1. It’s funny to look back now at the two weeks of arguing about whether Hamilton would have made the apex in Silverstone when we now know that Verstappen is not even interested in even making the corner to make a pass. Simpler times.

      3. I’m afraid hes not even capable of taking Lewis out anymore. His element of surprise was gone after his first year at TR. How many times has he tried to take Lewis out and failed over the last 4 races? The big difference between Lewis and Max is… Lewis can race wheel to wheel and realise when discretion is the better part of valour. Max has alot to learn

      4. Hamilton move (c)? Isn’t that a variation/improvement on Max’s ‘get out of my way or we crash’ but with a bit more skill, expertise and fineese?

        1. Yep, #44 is totally average except for this one skill which has refined to perfection

        2. Yes, with the Hamilton variation, the crasher stays in the race and wins. Compare that to the amateurish Verstappen Monza Variation where both the crashee and crasher are out. Verstappen still has much to learn.


          1. Good one. Lewis is indeed better at crashing others out. Just ask Albon, he ended the guys career. Lewis is such a dangerous driver when not miles ahead of the pack

          2. Its like Brasil never happened, And Max doesn’t even need a race to do he’s thing..


  5. Hamilton finished the 50-lap race with 6.825s in hand, which eventually grew by 15s Verstappen was given a 10s penalty for the turn 27 crash in addition to his earlier sanction.

    I thought Verstappen was given 5 seconds for going off track and gaining an advantage and 10 seconds for erratic braking. Or was the 5 seconds cleared because Verstappen gave his position back?

    1. Ignore my reply, I am sorry. I misread grew ‘by’ 15 seconds as grew ‘to’ 15 seconds.

  6. By forcing his way out of being overtaken, Verstappen effectively lost without a fight. He took long to give it, but lost the race the moment he decided he could not race like a professional. Again.

    He clearly was expecting the same outcome from Brazil. The guy must live in a very thick bubble to expect it after all the backlash that decision received.

  7. He won driver of the day?! Haha, deary me

    1. a lot more people drink red bull than monster :D

    2. Let’s also not forget that people only cast one vote (as far as I know, I never voted myself) and some for sure voted early in the race. The vote closes once the race ends, so soem people will vote “early” even if later their mind might have changed…

    3. Well what do you know, it turns out there is a world outside of the UK. Although I must admit I put him in the strugglers section this time around. He made two errors similar to Brasil. Yet he is loved outside the UK, because athletes sometimes do make mistakes but bar the UK, other people at least don’t overdramatise (or at least are not made totally bonkers by their famous national media) and have finally seen someone at an enormous high lelvel all season, bar 3 mistakes recently fueled by the injustice of how the season unfolds. Lewis mind games and the propaganda machine of Mercedes eventually worked. I thought Max would be immune, but surrounded by the shady people of RedBull he probably caved. For a 24 year old I dont worry about the future. Those rough edges (which Lewis also had at that age, but we conveniently forget) will disappear.

  8. So is it totally OK to give position just before DRS line and then immediately get it back with DRS? Was that just forgotten in all this other hassle?

    1. Thought that would’ve been penalised thinking about spa 2008.

    2. I picked up on that too. I mean… maybe he wouldve been pulled up on it had there not been another 6 reasons to penalise him?

    3. @hmmh No, it certainly wasn’t ok, that’s why he let Hamilton pass after that, if I am not mistaken.

      1. Reading the transcript Hamilton got past because Max’s rear tyres where too worn for him to put up a fight.

        1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
          8th December 2021, 3:21

          I believe he was instructed to “do it properly” after he retook the lead with DRS. That + 5 seconds (+10) meant it was over at the front. The only thing left to do was take out Lewis, something he’d been trying to do throughout the race, albeit unsuccessfully.

          1. Correct, Hamilton then also pushed Max off the track which is not recorded in the article…….

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            8th December 2021, 20:54

            And yet it is:

            Hamilton went down the inside and ran as deep as possible

    4. Well, Max gave the position back again on the next lap so I guess he righted that wrong. With Lewis in 2008, he was unable to give the position back to Kimi because it was raining and Kimi began to fall back very rapidly and crashed on the next lap. Ron Dennis asked Charlie if Lewis needed to give the place back again and he said “no”. I thought the 25 second penalty given to Lewis was an absolute disgrace and typical of the FIA Max Mosely era

    5. No, Max was instructed the next lap to give it back properly, which he did, but also Lewis was on the lookout this time and forced him as wide as he could to not get a shot of DRS overtake on the straight.

  9. I can see the argument about putting mediums on Verstappen in regard another safety car, but it also shows that the team not just the driver defaults to aggressive tactics – in this case to grab the lead at the first corner of the restart at all costs because to do it he needed softs and to do it the massive risks being undertaken syt the tcornrt and in regard to tyre longevity were ignored or rejected.

    The testosterone count in that garage is off the scale.

    1. ..”risks being undertaken at the first corner and in regard to tyre longevity were ignored…”

  10. You know, I have been a Verstappen fan mostly because I have longed for some competition in the WDC. Never hated Lewis, just hated that he won with no real test. But Max is losing me here. He is indeed “crazy”. Which I don’t mind so much. It is the lack of sportsmanship that bothers me. Mostly the walking off of the podium. I don’t expect him to be happy, but I do expect him to have some respect for the most decorated F1 driver in history.

    1. Great comment which I thinks sums up how a lot of people feel.

    2. Exactly my thoughts, great comment!

      I’ve always wanted a fight for race wins and championship that wasn’t between teammates, but these last couple of races left a sour taste. Jeddah (and Max’s attitude especially both in the car and out) was this bad that I’m not sure I want to watch the last race of the season.

  11. All I can say is that I am watching the creation of a monster. Lets watch and see how this will turn out in another 3 to 4 years time.

    1. Might be better for the sport if verstappen loses this title. He will learn some humility and, crucially, how to drive in a title fight. Hamilton has been at the sharp end for 15 seasons now and has learnt more about winning titles than any other driver in the history of the sport, arguably.

      If verstappen wins, it sends a bad message about how to do behave as a driver. In F1 the champion does not become the ‘patron’ of the grid (as in road cycling, to a decreasing extent) but is absolutely a role model and major influence on the rest of motorsport. It’s a shame as he drove absolutely beautifully for most of the year – pressure does funny things.

      1. if he wins, you can bet every driver he pushed of the track or got a penalty for something he did and went unpunished will arrive with a new mentality nex year.

        i didn’t mind Max winning until Mexico. He dominated the season, was the best driver overall. The fastest one at least.

        Then we had Brazil and this completely unacceptable performance on Jeddah and he lost me completely.
        That’s not what you expect of a champion, a guy who at 7 seasons still don’t know or understand clean wheel to wheel racing.

        We had some incredible exciting WDC decisions like 2000,2008, 10 or 12, we can’t be satisfied with Max’s antics.

        1. Totally agree; although there were hints to his attitude throughout the year but they could be (and were) passed off as ‘hard racing’.
          However, the ridiculous stunt in Brazil followed by by the utter farce of Saudi suggest to me we are odds on for a Max default win by collision or for him to get in front and stay there by simply making crash worthy moves that Lewis has no option but to avoid by evasive action that compromises his race.
          The only way Ham wins this is if he can start in front, get four or five seconds ahead and maintain it.

      2. Reminds me of Bolt v Gatlin in the 100m final. Although Bolt was past his best, he was the only one standing in the way of a 2 times proven drugs cheat and the Olympic title. He had to win for the good of sporting principles.

  12. I’m interested to see the reaction of his peers. I can’t believe they’re too happy with his driving and also attitude, ongoing profanity and actions on the podium.

    Verstappen also seemed not as comfortable or calm this weekend as he did weekend, maybe the cracks are starting to show.

  13. Any explanation for the “we didn’t need to do that, Max” message? When it was played on TV it wasn’t clear what “that” was.

    1. If I remember correctly, Max ‘s answer to that was “I tried, at least”, which sounded extremely odd…

    2. Cede the position as the penalty had already been applied. In fact if he hadn’t, he could have stayed ahead and prevented Hamilton from fastest lap, although I’m not sure his tyres could have withstood the continued onslaught and it probably would have meant a trip to the pits for a new set, costing even more points.

  14. So why did he turn his rain light on on lap 43?

    It flashes when the car is harvesting, what does it signify when it’s just on and it’s not raining?

  15. Seemed like RedBull knew a penalty was coming their way which is why they never pulled max in for fresh tyres even when Ocon was more than a pit stop behind.

    They had nothing to lose by giving him fresh boots except for a post race penalty potentially dropping him further down the grid.

    RedBull strategy is truly second to none, all other teams need to learn how RedBull do that. They have an answer for everything.

    It even looked like they coached Max on best place to hand back a position and he did it twice in the same spot. Who works that into a a race plan of action? You’d likely need to know it’s a likely thing and plan accordingly. Maybe they coached him during the 1st red flag and then it wasn’t needed till the later infringement? Otherwise it would have been premeditated, either way RedBull have a far better handle on these things than any other team.

    1. Agreed. That is why ferrari will never win a title when redbull is around

  16. This hole situation was mainly produced by FIA mostly pickng up the best time to start and end the last VSC…

Comments are closed.

Lap Speaker Text
50 Horner Good effort Max. I don’t know why he did it, why he went up the back of you like that. It made no sense at all.
50 Verstappen Luckily the fans have a clear mind about racing, because what happened today is unbelievable. I’m just trying to race, and this sport, it is more about penalties than racing. So for me, this is not Formula 1. But at least the fans enjoyed it, and I gave it all today. Clearly not quick enough, but still happy with with second.