Lewis Hamilton is adamant he hasn’t “changed the way” he races, and stands by his belief that there was “steep, heavy braking” from Max Verstappen on lap 37.
Hamilton and Verstappen engaged in a thrilling, but bitter, battle for the win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, a fight that included off-track moments and a collision.
The rules for overtaking have been an issue throughout this year’s championship with drivers penalised for forcing others off the track at some races, and then not penalised at others.
The most recent was at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix where Verstappen held onto the lead after forcing Hamilton at Turn 4. Also running off the track, the Red Bull driver stayed P1.
However, at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix he was given a five-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off the track.
It was again in a moment when Hamilton tried to attack him around the outside for the lead. Again both drivers were off the track, and again Verstappen retained the lead.
That was one of several moments the title protagonists had around the Jeddah circuit, one of which led to a collision as Hamilton hit the back of Verstappen’s RB16B which the Brit says was his rival braking testing him.
Asked about their flashpoints, Hamilton insisted: “I don’t think I’ve changed the way that I race.
“I think we’re seeing multiple incidents this year where even with Brazil we’re supposed to do our racing on track in between the white lines and the rules haven’t been clear from the stewards, that those things have been allowed, so that’s continued.
“From my understanding, I know that I can’t overtake someone and go off track and then keep the position but I think that’s well known between all us drivers but it doesn’t apply to one of us, I guess.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021
As for their lap 37 contact, told to give the position to Hamilton after retaining the lead by being off the track, Verstappen slowed to let the Brit through.
Hamilton also slowed, Verstappen hit the brakes, and Hamilton hit Verstappen calling him a “f***ing crazy guy”.
Hamilton said he felt at times during the race that a crash was coming and that it would end his championship chances.
“I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case,” he said.
“This is not the first time that I’ve had to avoid a collision and yeah, that’s how I felt at the moment, but you know sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and rewatch things and then you maybe feel differently but in the moment that’s how it felt.
“But I really just tried to recompose myself and chase down and keep fighting.”
But while Hamilton felt Verstappen had brake tested him, Verstappen says he was just slowing to hand the lead to Hamilton as he had been told to do.
He feels he did nothing wrong, and the Mercedes driver drove into him.
Asked for his perspective of the moment and why he didn’t pass Verstappen when the 24-year-old slowed, Hamilton explained: “It really wasn’t clear.
“So, there are two scenarios. There’s one that it wasn’t clear, two I didn’t get the information, and then it became apparent that he was trying to let me past, which was what he, I guess, had been asked to do but before the DRS zone.
“So then it would have meant he would just DRS back past me coming through the last corner, followed me and then DRS-ed me into Turn One.
“So that was the tactic, but I think that really the worst part was the steep, heavy braking that then happened at one point, which then I had to really… that’s where we collided. That was the dangerous part.”
Hamilton won the grand prix with the two tied on points heading into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Does Hamilton have the mental advantage?
Now that Lewis Hamilton is level on points, does he have the mental advantage ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP?