Max ‘right in middle of the track’ for Hamilton yield

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen with his helmet off. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Max Verstappen has his helmet off during a red flag period. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin has said Lewis Hamilton was unsure about passing Max Verstappen in Jeddah as he had slowed centrally on the track.

Ordered by his Red Bull team to let Hamilton through into the lead after leaving the track and gaining an advantage, Verstappen slowed down on the straight but Hamilton tucked in behind instead of driving past his title rival.

Ultimately he hit the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull, and post-race the stewards gave Verstappen a 10-second penalty, adjudging him to have applied the brakes and caused the collision.

Red Bull felt Hamilton was trying to stay behind to pick up DRS, a claim which Hamilton later confirmed, but Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Shovlin pointed the finger at Verstappen’s positioning.

The Dutchman remained in the middle of the track as he slowed, and Shovlin said that left Hamilton unsure of which way Verstappen would move.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen side-by-side. Saudi Arabia, December 2021.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, side-by-side in Saudi Arabia. December 2021.

“You could see Lewis had a problem because Max was driving right in the middle of the track,” said Shovlin, quoted by

“And this is usually just as wide as three car widths. He couldn’t know if Max was moving left or right.

“Max stayed very central and braked hard, and Lewis was only at 50 bar and later braked to avoid driving into Max. That’s all he could do.

“Nobody would expect anyone to let you pass by. If you let your team-mate pass, we all know how to handle it. And when you return a position, it shouldn’t be completely different.”

The issue was that both Mercedes and Hamilton had claimed to be unaware of Verstappen’s intention to concede the lead.

Indeed, Shovlin explained there had been no radio communication to the team to let them know what was happening.

“The timing was not perfect for us,” said Shovlin.

“The first radio message came from Lewis when he said Max had [brake] tested him.

“So we didn’t have time to tell Lewis and he didn’t expect it.”

Hamilton eventually made his way past Verstappen, allowing him to drive on to victory. He also claimed the fastest lap bonus point to go into the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tied with Verstappen on 369.5 points.

But after sustaining front wing damage in that collision with Verstappen, Shovlin felt Hamilton may have reconsidered that fastest lap attempt if he could have seen the extent of it.


“We could see other drivers had problems with the tyres and it was not clear whether the front wing would last until the end. It was a difficult situation whether you should go for the extra point,” Shovlin explained.

“Lewis had to make the decision and it was also influenced by the fact he couldn’t see the front wing. If he had seen the TV pictures like we did, he might have thought again.”


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