Max Verstappen accused by Sky F1 pundit of ‘clearly intentional’ Lewis Hamilton block

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Max Verstappen committed a “revenge foul” on his driver Lewis Hamilton in Austria, and F1 pundit Naomi Schiff said “that’s exactly what it was”.

In an exchange which was not acknowledged by the stewards during the sprint shootout in Austria, Hamilton and Verstappen would trade quickfire impeding incidents.

First, Verstappen, on his flying lap, would come up to the back of Hamilton through the penultimate corner, complaining that the Mercedes driver had impeded him. As Hamilton then started his flying lap from there, Verstappen would overtake into Turn 1 and ruin that Hamilton attempt.

Naomi Schiff backs Max Verstappen “revenge foul” tag

The incident meant that Hamilton was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying for the sprint, an action from Verstappen which Wolff labelled a “revenge foul”.

That claim was then put to Sky F1 pundit Schiff, who fully agrees with the Mercedes boss, and pointed out that Verstappen was taking a great risk considering impeding has generally been met with consequences from Race Control so far in F1 2023.

“It’s quite clear that that’s exactly what it was,” said Schiff on Wolff’s “revenge foul” claim.

“You can see his frustration, from what we heard, apparently Max was saying that he didn’t think that lap he’d just completed, that he felt he was impeded by Lewis in, would have been enough to get him through, so he decided he wanted to start another lap and that’s why he impeded him in Turn 1.

“So if we choose to believe that, my concern is on the exit of Turn 1 on the run up to Turn 2, he very clearly blocks him there as well, and I don’t understand why he’s done that.

“I mean, I get the frustration, you don’t want to be impeded, but he knows just how hard they’ve been policing exactly that this season so far, and he had a lot to lose by doing that.

“Drivers sometimes, really frustrated helmets on, and they make silly decisions, but it’s just unfortunate for Lewis, because for him, it was not an intentional move from him. Of course he impeded Max by being there, but Max was clearly a lot more intentional about what he was doing.”

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Sergio Perez then irks Max Verstappen

Verstappen went on to claim pole for the sprint race and would be joined on the front row by Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, that setting the scene for further fireworks at the start.

Perez made the better getaway to initially take the lead, but as Verstappen looked to respond coming out of Turn 1, Perez would at one stage squeeze his team-mate onto the grass, a move which Verstappen after the race called “not okay”.

Verstappen later reclaimed the lead at Turn 3 in a move which forced Perez wide and actually caused him to lose P2 to Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, Verstappen going on to win with a margin of 21 seconds over Perez who recovered to a P2 finish.

Perez’s excuse in that exchange was that he did not see Verstappen trying to move alongside him at first, and it was another claim met with scepticism, this time courtesy of 1996 World Champion Damon Hill.

“Maybe his defence is a little bit weak in saying he didn’t see him,” Hill suggested on Sky F1.

“He must have known that Max was somewhere and he certainly [looks] in the mirror and then does make a move.

“But he gave him not much room, poor old Max had to get a little bit on the grass, and I think that revved up Max a bit and he basically decided to brake really late into Turn 3 and that kind of nearly let everyone else through on the inside, and it would have had hearts in mouths on the pit wall at Red Bull.”

Verstappen went on to complement his sprint win with Austrian Grand Prix victory, making it nine wins from nine for the dominant Red Bull team to start F1 2023.

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