‘Headbutting tyre wall’ cost Max earlier title capture

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. 2021 Abu Dhabi

If it was not for his heavy shunt at Silverstone, Max Verstappen feels the 2021 title race would not have lasted until Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen secured his first Drivers’ title on the final lap of the last race, that being the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, taking advantage of a Safety Car period and then his fresher tyres to deny Lewis Hamilton an eighth World Championship.

For much of the season though, Verstappen had been the one leading the way in the Drivers’ Championship, but key moments brought him and Hamilton back within touching distance.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner identified a couple of defining moments in the title race, first picking out the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where Verstappen suffered a tyre blowout while leading the race.

Hamilton would go straight on into the run-off at the restart after that incident, accidentally altering his brakes as he challenged the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez for the lead.

Horner also picked out the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as a “key moment”, where Verstappen and Hamilton collided at Copse on the opening lap, sending Verstappen into the barriers, registering a 51G impact.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen about to crash at Abbey. Silverstone July 2021.

“There have been some big moments,” said Horner, as quoted by GPFans.

“It was important to get those victories, the run of results [France and double-header in Austria]. Then there were moments like Azerbaijan we had to come back from.

“It was important to come back strong, and Max did that, and then Silverstone was a key moment, and again how he came back from that.”

And Verstappen agreed with his team boss, focusing in particular on Silverstone as a major hold-up in his ultimately successful title bid.

Without that incident, Verstappen is confident that there would have been no last-race showdown for the World Championship.

“Same as Christian. Headbutting the tyre wall in Silverstone wasn’t that great,” said Verstappen on the key moments of the season to his mind.

“These were key moments otherwise it would have been decided a lot earlier.

“Especially towards the end of the season, getting a few wins where we didn’t expect it, or a pole position, or even a fastest lap for an extra point.

“These things actually do matter nowadays when you have a championship fight as we had.”

 

To Verstappen’s point, Horner highlighted the United States Grand Prix as the ultimate underdog victory from his driver.

“For me, in the latter part of the championship, particularly Austin, where we were certainly the underdog on that day, he delivered a victory that was truly outstanding,” said Horner.