Lewis Hamilton said he was reminded of his own mortality and the risks he takes competing in Formula One after his crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix. The world champion was lucky to escape without serious injury after he was hit in the head by Verstappen’s car at Monza on Sunday.
“It’s a big shock. I’ve been racing a long time and we are taking risks out there all the time,” said Hamilton, who has been competing in F1 since 2007 and is now in his 15th season. “It’s only when you experience something like that that you get that real shock and you look at life and realise how fragile we are.”
The pair went into the first chicane at Monza on lap 26 with Hamilton in front as Verstappen tried to pass. In doing so his car rode over the high sausage kerbs and was pitched on to Hamilton’s Mercedes. As they slid off the track the Dutchman’s right rear wheel careered over Hamilton’s car and into his head, with the halo cockpit protection device preventing serious impact in what could otherwise have been a fatal accident.
Hamilton, who said the halo had saved his life, will see a specialist to check for any possible injuries or side-effects from the incident before the Russian GP in two weeks’ time. Mercedes have confirmed there were no concussion features in the incident and the focus was on possible neck injury that Hamilton said was sore on Sunday night.
Daniel Ricciardo won the race for McLaren but the focus was on the fight between the two title protagonists. There has been little to choose between them all season and Verstappen remains five points in front after what has been some intense battling on the track. They had a major incident at the British GP when Hamilton clipped Verstappen attempting to pass at Copse corner. The Dutchman was knocked off the track enduring a high-speed impact with the barriers.
Hamilton said after the incident at Monza he was surprised Verstappen had not checked to see if he was unhurt. The Dutchman had climbed from his car and immediately left the scene but Verstappen said he had looked to see if Hamilton was OK. “In the heat of the moment it’s better to walk away so everyone calms down,” he said. “Lewis was fine, he was still trying to reverse when I was already out of the car. When you are not fine you are not doing that.”
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, however, has warned the fight for the title between Hamilton and Verstappen is “fierce and intense” and was concerned it was going too far.
With a pointed nod toward what he had previously described as “tactical foul” of Verstappen deliberately taking Hamilton out, Wolff said the two drivers had to find a way to race one another before another serious incident occurred. “We don’t want to have situations in the future where one loses a position and the only way of stopping the other one scoring is to take him out,” he said.
“Both of them need to leave space for each other, race each other hard but avoid accidents.
“It was good fun until now, but we have seen the halo save Lewis’s life on Sunday and Max had a heavy impact in Silverstone and we don’t want to get to a situation where we intervene because someone gets really hurt.”
Whereas Hamilton was deemed to be at fault for the crash at the British GP and penalised, in Monza Verstappen was ruled to have been predominantly to blame and was given a three-place grid penalty by the stewards for the Russian GP.
Hamilton was concerned that Verstappen, who has been heavily criticised in the past for an overaggressive approach to driving, was still too impetuous. He believed the rules had to be addressed to ensure it was not repeated. “All of us drivers are on the edge and when we have the inside line every single driver, past and present, will try to hold on to his position,” he said. “But I definitely do think we need to be looking into this and making sure the right decisions are being made.
“No one wants to see anyone get injured and if we can put some better protocols in, we can avoid this kind of stuff in the future.”