The 2021 Formula 1 title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen came to a head on Sunday at the Italian Grand Prix when the two drivers collided. It brought an end to their afternoon, giving Daniel Ricciardo a chance to claim his first win since leaving Red Bull Racing in 2018.
The crash sent Verstappen's Red Bull car flying off the sausage kerb. It landed dangerously atop of Hamilton's as they went into the gravel at Turn 2. The Dutchman's right rear wheel grazed the British driver's helmet before coming to settle on the Mercedes' nose cone. The halo again proved its worth, by protecting the Mercedes driver from severe injury.
Verstappen was quickly out of the car and he walked away as Hamilton tried to back his car out of the pile-up. The Briton admitted after that it was "surprising" that the Dutch driver did not look to see if his colleague was fine after being involved in a major incident.
"I definitely didn't think Max would lose control over the kerb and run into me," Hamilton said, as quoted on Motorsport.com. "Looking back at the footage, it obviously happened very quick. Being in the car, all I could think of was getting going and how many positions I was losing."
"I did see Max get out and just walk by. I found that a little bit surprising, because ultimately I think when we go out, and when we do have incidents, the first thing we want is make sure if the guy that we crashed into or we collided with is okay."
It all stemmed from Verstappen's slow first pit stop which put him behind Ricciardo, who had stopped the lap before. It gave Hamilton and Mercedes the opportunity to make a stop, despite being in fourth in the first part of the race, and potentially come out ahead of the Dutchman.
The Mercedes team also had a disrupted pit stop, which saw Hamilton come out just behind Ricciardo, but slightly ahead of Verstappen, who had closed the gap to the Australian despite his slower stop. The Briton moved to the left to cover Verstappen and the two drivers went into Turn 1 almost alongside each other.
As Hamilton covered his line going into Turn 1, Verstappen refused to back down and the Red Bull Racing driver was pushed on to the sausage kerb, which catapulted his car into the air only to land atop the Mercedes. The damage was catastrophic for both cars, which saw them end their day in the gravel.
The race stewards investigated the incident after the race and decided to hand Verstappen a three-place grid penalty, which will be served at the Russian Grand Prix on Sept. 24. The DNF for both championship contenders sees Verstappen continue to lead the Drivers' championship by five points.