Lewis Hamilton has warned Max Verstappen he won’t back down for the remainder of the season after the title rivals’ dramatic crash at the British Grand Prix.
The duo touched wheels early in the race at Silverstone, causing championship leader Verstappen to veer off the track at high-speed and hit the Armco barriers at 51G.
It led to a rebuke for Hamilton, who was handed a 10-second penalty as a result, by both Verstappen and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who branded it a hollow victory for the Briton.
But the seven-time world champion defended his role in the incident and said: “This is racing. There’s plenty of space on the track for us to get around. I’ve managed a long time without colliding with someone but, when someone’s too aggressive, these things are bound to happen.
“I hope he’s ok because of course I’d love to have wheel-to-wheel racing with him the whole race. But I will never back down with anyone. We needed the points, he left a gap and I went for it.”
The incident split opinion in the paddock with Horner and Verstappen fuming after the Dutchman came away with no points and ended up in hospital as a precautionary check.
Meanwhile, Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff defended his actions, with the race stewards ultimately deciding his role did not require any more serious action than the small time penalty.
The Mercedes driver, who went on to claw back the deficit to pass long-time leader Charles Leclerc for the win late in the race to the delight of the 140,000 spectators at Silverstone, laid the blame on the shoulders of his title rival.
The Briton said: “I just don’t feel that he needs to be as aggressive as he is. We’re going down to turn six and he’s bumping wheels with me. I try to give him space but I was quite a long way up the inside to turn nine and none of us backed out, and that’s the end result.”
It closed the gap in the drivers’ standings to just eight points but also ignited a championship that had lacked the feistiness of past F1 rivalries to date.
Despite the explosive start to yesterday’s race, Hamilton insisted it would still be a clean fight for the rest of the 2021 season.
He said: “I think we have to really try to find the best balance we can on track with space and respect between one another so that we can continue racing and have good races without colliding.”
Watch: Lewis Hamilton targeted by racists online after British Grand Prix win and Max Verstappen crash