Red Bull team principal Christian Horner feels Max Verstappen’s contact with Lewis Hamilton was a racing incident “at best”, and the Mercedes driver should have given more room.
The 2021 title protagonists made contact with each other at the first Safety Car restart during a frenetic Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday.
Eventual race winner George Russell bolted on the pit straight and Verstappen got into Hamilton’s slipstream heading towards the Senna S, with the Red Bull driver subsequently launching a move around the outside of Hamilton at Turn 1.
This gave Verstappen the inside line for Turn 2, but Hamilton defended and the two drivers collided at the apex, with the Red Bull driver suffering front wing damage and Hamilton having to take to the grass before coming back on track in the midfield.
The two-time World Champion had to pit with the damage he had and, while he was able to recover to sixth place, he had to take a five-second penalty after the FIA found him to have caused the collision early in the race.
The stewards noted that “Hamilton could possibly have given a little more room at the apex of Turn 2″, but they found the Red Bull driver to have been at fault for the incident between the pair on Sunday – which his team boss did not feel was the correct decision.
“I felt the penalty was harsh,” Horner explained to Sky Sports F1 after the race had finished.
“I felt that Max, you know, he got ahead, going through the left hander into the [right] hander.
“And I think Lewis could have afforded a bit more room there, so I felt it was harsh for Max to get the five seconds. At best, it was a racing incident.”
Russell and Hamilton eventually formed a one-two finish in Mercedes’ first victory of the season, with the eight-time Constructors’ champions bringing their deficit to Ferrari down to 19 points for the final round of the year in Abu Dhabi.
Despite a year to forget for Mercedes, they could yet still finish second in the team standings come season’s end, and the Red Bull team boss is wary of how much they have been able to catch up with Red Bull as the year has worn on.
“I mean, you’ve seen them making big strides in the last month so you know, congrats to George on his first victory,” Horner said of Mercedes’ recent progress.
“He’s been very strong all weekend and particularly [in] sector two both yesterday and today, they were very, very strong.
“You know, we need to understand why we gave away that performance in that sector, and obviously we’ll come out on all cylinders hopefully next weekend.”