Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came to blows on track for the first time in 2022 at the restart from the first Safety Car period in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
The 2021 World Championship rivals had famously collided at Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah during their title battle, but have not been in close proximity as often this season.
But that was the case at Interlagos as they battled for second position behind Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell and collided, with Verstappen coming off worse as the damage to his Red Bull forced him into a pit-stop.
“He left me no space, I’ve got damage,” was Verstappen’s immediate reaction over team radio, having drawn alongside Hamilton on the inside.
Hamilton, meanwhile, told his race engineer “that was no racing incident, mate” – and the stewards agreed as they gave the double World Champion a five-second time penalty – giving him a mountain to climb if he was to sustain his record of winning every race since the summer break bar one.
The Dutchman found himself on 15th position on lap 18 of 71, while Hamilton had worked his way back up to third behind Russell and Sergio Perez.
Earlier, Daniel Ricciardo’s dismal season had hit another low point as he made a swift exit from the grand prix after a tangle with Kevin Magnussen.
Starting 11th on the grid, three places behind Magnussen, the Australian found himself right behind the Haas in the midfield on the opening lap and looked to get past on the inside.
But the McLaren clipped the back of the Dane’s car, spinning it around and the backward momentum of the Haas meant it struck Ricciardo’s MCL36 and both ended up in the barrier, unable to continue.
It meant an early end to Ricciardo’s penultimate race for McLaren as he is being dropped at the end of this season in favour of his rookie compatriot Oscar Piastri.
Strong performances, such as in Mexico last time out, have been few and far between for the 33-year-old this year, hence his contract being terminated a year early, and this was his third retirement of the campaign.
In a dramatic start to the race, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also temporarily found himself in the barrier after a collision with birthday boy Lando Norris, but was able to keep going although, like Verstappen, his victory and even podium hopes looked to have gone.