Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s latest chapter in their World Championship battle began early in FP2 for the United States Grand Prix.
The duo, separated by six points in the Drivers’ standings with six races remaining this year, appeared to be racing each other two days ahead of schedule at the Circuit of The Americas.
Seemingly starting a ‘hot’ lap at the same time, the duo came out of the final corner side by side with Hamilton’s Mercedes on the inside and Verstappen having to run off the track.
They continued along the pits straight with the two cars line abreast up the hill to Turn 1 little more than inches apart, Hamilton edging ahead into the corner.
Verstappen then called Hamilton a “stupid idiot” over the team radio and gave a one-fingered gesture as his rival moved clear.
“Ignore it, don’t worry about it,” was the response from the Dutchman’s race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase.
Asked for his comments about the incident, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who is speaking to Sky F1 from the pit wall this weekend, said: “They were obviously queuing up to start the lap and Lewis decided just to jump Max there.
“I think they have an unwritten rule that in sessions like this they take their turns. But I think Max was just pointing out he was first in the queue, so one of those things.”
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 22, 2021
Having collided on track twice this season, at Silverstone and Monza, there looks to be every chance that Hamilton and Verstappen will both start on the front row in Austin.
Although Mercedes have established a recent pace advantage over Red Bull, Hamilton’s team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, will incur a grid penalty for the third time in four races having had his sixth internal combustion engine of the year fitted.
The Finn will consequently drop five places, leaving a Hamilton-Verstappen front row much the most likely scenario.
Since their Monza crash, for which Verstappen was adjudged to be at fault by the stewards, the title rivals have not raced each other directly on track having each taken a grid penalty within the past two races.
Verstappen started from the back of the field in Russia but came through to finish second to Hamilton, who was 11th on the grid at the Turkish Grand Prix and ended up fifth.