It's happened. It's Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost at Suzuka 1989 all over again. 2021 Formula One World Championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crashed into each other on lap 27 of today's Italian Grand Prix. And boy it was nasty.
It all happened when Hamilton was coming back onto the track after his first pit stop of the race and met with Verstappen, who was doing his best to make up for a piss-poor, 11-second pit stop the lap before. The duo met at the Turn 1 chicane and that's where it all went wrong.
Viewing the replay from various angles, it's evident that Hamilton felt confident in having the inside line—and therefore the track advantage—going into the chicane. By mid-corner, however, Verstappen was entirely alongside Hamilton and appeared to be carrying more speed into the subsequent left-hander. By the time the Dutch driver had to pivot left, though, he bounced off the inside sausage curb and briefly lost traction.
This, combined with Hamilton not leaving any room on the inside, caused the Red Bull to climb atop the Mercedes and bring the duo to a halt. By the time the smoke settled and we got a good look at Hamilton's halo device, it became evident that the hit had been much more violent than originally thought.
As the pictures here show, Verstappen's rear right tire crushed the top of Hamilton's car and severely damaged the halo. Had the halo not been in place, it's safe to assume that it would've been Hamilton's helmet that would've taken the grunt of the impact. It can be seen in the slow-motion replays that Verstappen's tire was still spinning as it destroyed the Mercedes' top air intake, further causing more carnage.
Red Bull quickly radioed Verstappen to make sure he was okay, to which he responded "that's what happens when you don't leave any room [on the inside]." Hamilton could be seen trying to reverse out of the gravel trap even after Verstappen had exited his car, to which the team quickly instructed him to shut the engine off.
It's hard to blame either driver for the collision. On one hand, Hamilton was doing his best to keep Verstappen behind him and he was the fastest car going into the chicane. On the other, Verstappen's front axle was well past the middle of Hamilton's car further into the corner, meaning that he should've left room for the Red Bull. The combination of him not doing so and Verstappen's clash with the sausage curb sealed their fate.
This, of course, throws the championship wide open, as Verstappen looked set to finish second in today's race—or possibly even first prior to the pit snafu. Hamilton was most likely going to finish in the top three, further doing damage control in the points standing. Currently, Verstappen leads the championship by five points from Hamilton.
McLaren's Daniel Riccardo and Lando Norris went on to give the Woking squad a one-two finish, with Valtteri Bottas finishing third.
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