Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina circuit, 2021

Did the stewards take the correct decision over Hamilton and Verstappen on lap one?

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The stewards decided not to investigate a controlversial first-lap incident between championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Were they right to wave “play on” after the pair clashed at turn six?


At the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton passed pole-winner Verstappen on the run to the first corner. As the pair headed down the back straight towards turn six, Verstappen attempted a very late move under braking. The pair almost collided at the apex, with Hamilton taking to the escape road and missing turn seven.

Verstappen remained within the confines of the track limits at all times throughout the sequence, while Hamilton rejoined the track on the straight following turn seven.

Hamilton appeared to back off slightly in an attempt to negate any advantage gained by cutting turn seven, with the gap to Verstappen dropping to just over a second. On the third lap of the race, race control announced that there would be no further action taken into the incident.

How it happened

Verstappen is behind approaching turn six
Verstappen attempts to lunge up the inside under braking
Hamilton looks to avoid contact with Verstappen and runs off through turn seven

What they said

In the cars

Lewis Hamilton defended his actions, claiming that Verstappen had “pushed me off track.” Hamilton’s engineer, Peter Bonnington, told his driver that Mercedes were “happy with the gap you have reinstated”.

Verstappen was incredulous that race control had deemed no further investigation was necessary into the incident. “That is incredible,” said Verstappen. “What are they doing here?”

The official verdict

FIA race director, Michael Masi, confirmed to Red Bull sporting director, Jonathan Wheatley, that there would be no further action into the incident. “He’s forced him out there, that’s why we asked them to give back all of the advantage,” said Masi. “All the advantage was given back prior to the first lap ending.”

Wheatley pressed Red Bull’s case. “That was a hard, aggressive pass by Max but Max stayed fully on the track and he was ahead at the apex,” he said. “He did everything right, he stayed on the track. At some point the second car has to back out.”

Masi reiterated the stewards’ position, stating Verstappen had forced Hamilton off. “The stewards have reviewed it and determined that all of the lasting advantage was gained and that Max forced that position there,” he said. “They say that they have reviewed it and aren’t investigating it.”

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Your verdict

Should Hamilton have been penalised for the incident? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree the stewards were right not to penalise Hamilton for the incident with Verstappen?

  • No opinion (0%)
  • Strongly disagree (37%)
  • Slightly disagree (19%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (6%)
  • Slightly agree (10%)
  • Strongly agree (27%)

Total Voters: 221

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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58 comments on “Did the stewards take the correct decision over Hamilton and Verstappen on lap one?”

  1. Nonsense non-decision.

  2. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    12th December 2021, 14:12

    Absolutely not!

  3. Let them race ;)

    1. A driver gaining a second over everybody outside of the track is not racing.
      Hamilton just cut the corner and pressed the gas pedal.

      1. None of this is racing. Brazil. Saudi. UAE. This is all “show”.

    2. Yeah, by now, I really don’t see much sense in penalising these moves anymore, since the FIA has made such a mess of making it wholly unclear what really should be allowed and what not @john-h, so then we resort to more or less “let them race” and accept that both go past what we thought was normal or acceptable in recent years as long as they avoid barging the other into the barriers.

  4. How about if Lewis gave the place back, and Max got 5 sec penalty to serve during pit stops?

    1. Agreed. It was a late lunge that was never going to work as an overtake. Max was nowhere near the apex. Lewis gained by going off track, but the move was never on. Lewis shouldve given the place back. The reality is that halfway through the stint he was almost a second a lap faster so he wouldve been by anyway.

      1. Well, it actually worked. Completely fair overtaking maneouver. Did not know late braking, dive bombs, late lunges, overtaking in a corner etc are illegal maneouvers now!!! HAM is a joke and manipulator, thank God is not champ, he got used so much to having a rocket of a car, DRS etc, overtaking everybody long before the corners that whenever a driver has the car to keep up with him and know how to race too, he complains on the radio. He said PER was racing dangerously. Even Brundle got fed up taking his part on Sky and said in his day “that was called racing”. HAM did the same maneouver to RAI in 2018 Austria – 1st corner 1st lap, nobody considered that maneouver illegal in any way.

        1. Agree with you. HAM should have defended the inside. VER made the corner.

        2. This is even dicused by some racers on F1 TV they all agree Lewis should have give the place back. That was very rare (even the Mercedes test driver said it)
          The rules should be rewritten with clear picture what doesn’t is allowed and what is allowed.

  5. What the hell. Thats exactly what got max a 5s penalty in saudi arabia.

  6. The most foolish decision ever. They gifted the championship almost :)

  7. Well bye bye Lewis, Masi is a terrible director and I guarantee Lewis will retire after this, not sure I’m happy about this. Was cheering for Max but this sums everything up about this year. The refs have put too much into the racing this year.

    1. I think you are correct in your assessment that Hamilton will retire.

  8. Stewards having a blinder on both first and last laps

  9. How on earth was that even remotely a penalty for Hamilton. Verstappen just dive bombs into Hamilton

    Same as Monaco where Verstappen drove into Hamilton and Hamilton was allowed to cut the corner.

    1. Strangely enough, I think the same, he maybe should’ve given 1 sec back for cutting the track too much, but he was pushed off the track.

    2. If a driver is ahead and you don’t leave space on track does that even make sense. Brundle and most of these ex drivers know how it has been all these years but they just talk asine logic.

  10. Slightly agree. Max undoubtedly ran him out of road but Lewis floored it back to the track using the run-off. Lewis could definitely have made a better attempt to get back on the track sooner. On the balance of things, probably best let it go. Ultimately I don’t think it would have mattered. Lewis was just so much faster today.

    1. Yes, this sums it up, could’ve done a better attempt to get back without gaining an advantage.

    2. Agree with this but would like to add that the only reason it looked like hamilton had gained on verstappen is because verstappen royally screwed up the corner. hamilton lifted to nullify his advantage compared to a normal racing lap (i assume) and thus the stewards were happy about that

  11. I think the decision is correct, but in my opinion the outcome was wrong. Hamilton was able to give himself quite a lead by cutting the corner. I think the track layout has to change, so that when you cut the corner you cant get yourself an advantadge. If both would have been close together after the incident i think nobody could complain.

    1. @RenM

      Any chicane is going to allow corner cutting, unless there is wall, sand or gravel, but we know why they don’t want those.

      1. @Aapje
        Sure, cutting the corner was absolutely necessary here. But there are possibilities to reduce the advantadges and still allow drivers to cut the corner: sausage curbs at the exit of the run of area e.g. With the current layout Hamilton was able to normaly accelerate and i think that is wrong.

    2. Yes exactly. It’s ridiculous that there’s asphalt everywhere and you can just go straight and suddenly be second ahead. Those tracks are horrible and ruin everything.

    3. imo the only reason why it looked like hamilton gained a big advantage is because max screwed up the corner and ran way too deep. lewis took to the runoff and lifted on the straight. i assume the stewards were happy he lifted enough to correct any gains he made over a normal racing lap. so looking at it that way, lewis in effect took the corner normally and max screwed it up by braking too late, hence the increase in their gap

  12. Lewis did get penalised…by Masi allowing the lapped cars between him and Max to overtake and nobody else.

  13. Somehow I think Mercedes would trade this decision for the one at the end of the race…

  14. Max was ahead at the beginning of the turn and made the apex. Hamilton should have braked earlier since he was on mediums and Verstappen on softs. Wrong decision and not consistent with earlier moments this season.

  15. Even if they had 5 second penalty, MERC would have covered it. They had the pace today.

  16. This was a classic dive bomb, that Ricciardo is famous for and has always been allowed as long as you are equal or in front at the apex, which Max was.

    1. ricciado actually used to make the apex though while max does not…

  17. That was a fair move. Villeneuve did that on MSC in Jerez all those years ago.

  18. “They say that they have reviewed it and aren’t investigating it.”

    I hate this terminology. How do you define a review vs an investigation? If the stewards have reviewed footage and determined that they are not investigating, is that not in itself an investigation?

  19. That is all about letting them race, that is all about letting them race.

  20. It was a fair move from Max. Ricciardo made a career out of it. Hamilton should had been required to give the position back.

  21. No, even as a Lewis fan I think that was a bad call. It was, however, consistent with many others earlier in the season.

  22. Yes – Hamilton should have been penalised but what goes around, comes around. Cheers.

  23. Max drove so aggressively that if Hamilton had tried to brake and fall in behind he would probably have flat spotted his tyres and still gone off.

  24. Hamilton should have been penalised but its not surprising that he wasnt.

    We’ve seen Michael Schumacher (Hungary 2006) and Fernando Alonso (Monaco 2005) keep positions in a similar manner before and not be penalised so why would Lewis on this occasion.

    The thing that annoys me most. The thing that makes it seem unfair. Is that Max made the corner and was essentially penalised for it. Had Max repeated Interlagos and driven off the track and followed Lewis, he would have been better off and closer going into the next corner.

    He took the corner correctly, and ended up seconds behind. Thats not right.

    And it wouldnt have mattered anyway. Lewis had the better car, he probably would have gotten back past as soon as the DRS activated.

    What this did also was rob us, the fans, of further racing.

    1. But Max forced LH off the track, it was LH corner until Max went late on the brakes. There is no way he would have made the corner and also allowed LH the racing room he was entitled to. IMHO the only reason they didn’t crash was LH bailed into the run off.

      1. ‘IMHO the only reason they didn’t crash was LH bailed into the run off’

        THIS. imo if max had the same attitude at silverstone he had the car and skill to win the championship one race early

        for the record i still think hamitlon is 100% at fault for silverstone. but ultimately imo he still has a better racing attitude of ‘live to fight another day’

  25. I think Hamilton shouldn’t be forced to give position (although that was my first thought) but it seemed to me that he keep his time advantage over Max even though Race Direction mentioned he had given that back! I never noticed the gap going back down…

  26. As others have said, I think it would have been enough for Hamilton to give the time back, not the place. Had he been ordered to give the place back, that would have been fine (imo) as well.

    But the time he gained was a joke. Even if you think Verstappen’s move was never good, they went from a couple of tenths to Hamilton 1.2 to 1.4 ahead. HAM needed to give back about a second, imo.

    1. Hamilton won’t retire he’s after Schumacher record not a hope in he’ll of him retiring

  27. Since Brazilian GP 2021 the rules of F1 are different. It makes no sense to search for a sense into them.

  28. LH had the corner, Max dive bomb LH who was in front of him. Max left zero room for LH as he drove right out to the outside line. Where was LH supposed to go?

    He did shoot out in front of Max and on my TV it looked liked he slowed to close the gap to Max, I thought he was going to let Max by. If they weren’t going to rule on the dive bomb in Brazil then they were consistent in a no call today.

    When is the FIA going to call Max on his dive bombs that force the other car off the track? The dive bombs are fun to watch when they work and everyone stays on track.

    1. Lewis ”had the corner”?! What that really means?! Is dive bomb illegal somehow? Or there’s a rule that says overtaking in a corner is not permitted, overtaking is only allowed before the corner etc? No, HAM wasn’t in front at all, they were side by side like more than 1 car length before the actual corner, in the middile of the corner HAM was like half the car behind. So, this was actually a lot worse than VER’s move at the restart of the SA GP. At the restart of the SA GP, VER attempted a perfectly OK overtaking maneouver on the exterior until HAM decided to leave him no space anymore altough VER was side by side.

      1. @mg1982 +1 it is called racing within the confines of the race track. Something Max did at that time perfectly.

  29. Ham seems to have forgotten that an alternate strategy is to brake early and get a better run out of the corner. He seems to only have one answer to Max – try to stick it out side by side until they go off – not smart at all.

  30. No, Hamilton gained lasting advantage.

    And then according to stewards returned it..

    Might as well not have stewards.

    That part of racing was superb.. Also Hamilton did the only thing possible – gained advantage off track.

    But steward inactivity voided the race, and Masi did what he could potentially to repay that one.

  31. It doesn’t seem like anyone here has ever watched MotoGP. This is a plain and simple block pass executed by Max. They are completely legal in the world of motorbikes which are inherently more dangerous. 0 issues. Other driver needs to back off. That’s the entire point of the move.

  32. If it was Max who would gain advantages over 2 second after the cutting the corner – then he would definitely be punished like it was always before.

    So, LH should be punished too as he gained the advantages. He even didn’t turn the wheel to the left to make the corner he make it straight to cut it.

  33. We need some mechanism to stop a car that’s running wide from gaining an advantage over the car that stays on track.

    Until this is addressed, it’s bound to happen over and over again!

  34. Seemed reasonable to me – VER dive-bombed (legit), but didn’t leave him any room on the outside to stay on the track (not legit – see previous examples in Austria this year). I think maybe HAM could have given back a bit more time, but that he stayed ahead was correct.

  35. I find it hard to believe that Mercedes are allowed 3 drivers on the track when all the rest have only two. It appears that Micheal Masi is the third driver in the Mercedes team at the last two races of the season at the very least. Irony is that if Masi the third Merc driver had made the first lap judgement correct in the beginning, Lord Hamilton would have his eighth world championship now. But as the race/ fiasco went on Masi realised he had made a very stupid and unjust call on the first incident and when the opportunity arrived later he decided to give back the chance he stole from Max in the beginning. Max deserved the win due to all rhe bad decisions throughout the year from Race no control. I can understand Toto Woolf’s attitude on this whole race, it is against the rules for anyone to beat Mercedes at all. The stupid thing is that if he could just shut his mouth and play the game and accept that Hamilton is not god He would have won hands down. Red Bull could never have matched The Mercedes on pace at all. It was a just and deserved win for Max who has consistently cheated out of results since he came into F1, Max has always been the best driver throughout.

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