Lewis Hamilton has described as “mind-blowing” that Max Verstappen fans would cheer seeing him crash, as happened in Austrian Grand Prix qualifying.
On the first hot lap he tried to complete in Q3, Hamilton suddenly found his Mercedes veering across the gravel and, unable to correct it, he smacked into the barrier side-on.
Although he was unhurt, the seven-time former World Champion insisted straight afterwards it had been “a big hit” – and indeed he had to switch to the spare W13 chassis before FP2.
Rivalry between the factions affiliated to the two 2021 title rivals has been growing ever since they collided at last season’s British Grand Prix – and Verstappen was roundly jeered by many home fans on his return to Silverstone a week ago.
Those spectators also celebrated when he started dropping down the order to an eventual seventh place after running over some debris and damaging his car.
However, the Dutchman finds the level of support at the opposite end of the spectrum in Austria, which is the home country for his Red Bull team and also to where hordes of his orange-clad supporters travel each year.
Hamilton, who started the sprint ninth and made up one place to ensure a P8 grid position for the grand prix, was mystified as to how anyone could cheer a crash – especially when they do not know what the consequences could be for that driver.
Solid sprint for the boys. @LewisHamilton finished in P8 after dropping back to P11 after turn 1 chaos. @GeorgeRussell63 defended his P4. All set for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. 🤜🤛 @MercedesAMGF1 #AustrianGP #MercedesAMGF1 #WorldsFastestFamily pic.twitter.com/iW9eWO3zkj
— Mercedes-AMG Motorsport (@amgmotorsport) July 9, 2022
“I don’t agree with any of that, no matter what,” said Hamilton. “A driver could have been in hospital and you are going to cheer that?
“It’s mind-blowing that people would do that, knowing how dangerous our sport is. I was grateful I didn’t end up in hospital and I wasn’t heavily injured.
“You should never cheer someone’s downfall or someone’s injury. It shouldn’t have happened at Silverstone, even though it wasn’t a crash, and it shouldn’t have happened here.”
The 37-year-old Briton did not have the easiest of times in the sprint either, for he made early contact with Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and later struggled to get past Mick Schumacher’s Haas before ultimately doing so.
“I got a bit of wheelspin and was under attack from the cars around me,” said Hamilton of the start. “Pierre moved over on me, so I had nowhere to go.
“It wasn’t particularly the most fun of races. I was so lucky [to get around the first lap] and I’m grateful to have finished and got one point.”