Jolyon Palmer thinks Max Verstappen’s spate of minor driving errors this season should be put in context with the big mistake Lewis Hamilton made at Imola.
Verstappen trails Hamilton by eight points in the World Championship standings, but has arguably had the car to be ahead with the Red Bull looking at least the equal of the Mercedes over much of the first three race weekends.
However, the Dutchman has allowed opportunities to put more pressure on Hamilton to slip by. In Bahrain, his attempted pass for the race win was deemed illegal for exceeding track limits – an issue that also raised its head in Portuguese Grand Prix qualifying, costing him pole position, and the race when Verstappen was denied the point for setting the fastest lap.
In addition, Verstappen also made a mistake at Portimao when chasing Valtteri Bottas, the leader at the time, which allowed Hamilton to overtake him using DRS down the pits straight on his way to victory.
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But according to Palmer, those small mistakes should be balanced against Hamilton’s at Imola, where he went off on a slippery circuit while lapping George Russell and hit the barrier before a twist of fate allowed the seven-time World Champion to salvage his race and finish second behind Verstappen.
On the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast, Palmer said: “We’re talking three errors for Verstappen this weekend – the qualifying one, tiny error, punished; the one behind Bottas, again small error that was punished.
“Is Hamilton more experienced, is he making fewer errors? The guy crashed it into the wall at Imola!
“He has made a far bigger, and should have been far costlier, mistake than all of the mistakes Verstappen made [in Portugal] put together, but circumstance got him back to second place – and a great recovery drive thereafter the red flag.
“But without Bottas and Russell crashing in the manner they did, there’s not a Safety Car, there’s not a red flag at the perfect time that Hamilton can basically restart the race from ninth place rather than being ninth plus a pit-stop and, by the way, a lap down.
“Hamilton is making very few errors overall, but he has also made a big one this year that should have cost him a lot more than six points in the end to Verstappen at Imola.
“It’s not just one of them making errors – one of them is making a lot of small ones, the other has made one big one over three races.”