Updated: Feb 28
Written by Lissie Mackintosh edited by Harshi Vashee
The Hamilton vs Verstappen rivalry is one that will go down as one of the great battles in Formula 1 history. Two of the best drivers the sport has ever seen are neck and neck for the Driver’s championship this year, which leaves fans wondering whether we are well and truly moving into the Verstappen Era. This is an epic battle, and one which gets more and more intense with each race of the season. We have seen some incredible moments between these two drivers, but here are the best five of the season so far.
The first fight of the season in Bahrain
Whilst Red Bull dominated pre-season testing in Bahrain, it was no surprise that Verstappen took pole for the first Grand Prix of the season. But Verstappen’s initial pitstop in the race allowed Hamilton to capitalise and undercut the Red Bull driver. When Verstappen came in for his second stop, the race was well and truly on, and whilst he tried to overtake Hamilton for the race win, he came off the track in doing so, eventually giving back the position to the Mercedes driver in order to not risk incurring a penalty for taking a shortcut. And so, we saw the first real fight between the two cars this season, but this time it was Hamilton who took the win.
The double Baku misfortune
The June race in Baku started out well for both drivers. By Lap 47, Verstappen found himself comfortably in the lead and looked set to be the race winner. This was until he unfortunately crashed out due to tyre failure which suspended the race on Lap 48. Tensions ran high during the restart in Lap 50, which Perez was set to lead, as Hamilton knew this was his moment to shine and take an easy point advantage over his rival. As the cars pulled away, Hamilton lunged forward as if to overtake Perez, gaining that first place back, but instead heavily locked up and went straight into the Turn 1 run-off. With both drivers out of the race, Perez took home first place, but Hamilton had failed to capitalise on Verstappen’s bad luck due to his own misjudgement of the car, finishing 15th.
The real question remains, who lost out more in Azerbaijan? For me it has to be Hamilton as he gave away those points to Perez with only himself to blame, whereas Verstappen’s tyre issues were seemingly a wider Pirelli issue. Either way, both of the drivers suffered and the race was an exciting one to watch.
Red Bull’s strategy magic in France
Mercedes’ strategy in France was not up to their usual standard. In Lap 1, Verstappen’s mistake in Turn 1 coming off the track gave Hamilton the lead. Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton pitted (in that order) and Verstappen pulled the undercut on Hamilton. Crucially, Verstappen then pitted again in Lap 32, meaning he easily overtook Bottas on Lap 44 and then Lewis on Lap 52, whose tyres were over 10 laps older than Verstappen’s by this point. A rightly angry Bottas explained to his engineers that Mercedes should have been on a two stop strategy like Red Bull were, but ultimately it was a team win for Red Bull as Perez also overtook Bottas and finished 3rd, leaving Lewis 2nd and Bottas 4th.
The Silverstone Crash
The Silverstone Crash. What really happened? Thanks to the power of youtube (and the extremely long red flag stop), I’m sure most of us have seen the replay footage more than once. But to recap, coming up to Copse Corner on Lap 1, Verstappen led and Hamilton was in second. Hamilton, despite trying to dip left and gain the advantage on his rival, stayed side by side with Verstappen, taking the inside of the corner. Hamilton arguably went a little wide at the apex, and Verstappen definitely wasn’t going to give him any more room either, and so Hamilton’s left front nipped Verstappen’s right rear tyre – causing the horrific crash. Whilst Verstappen (who was luckily unharmed), was taken to hospital for precautionary checks, Hamilton stayed in the race, taking a 10 second time penalty but eventually overtaking Leclerc towards the very end to claim the home Silverstone victory as his own. Whilst it certainly takes two to tango ( in this case to crash a car at 51G), and both drivers are at fault in some way, Hamilton’s unwillingness to budge led to the stewards giving him the penalty.
The Monza Crash
Not sure if you’ve heard but there’s a new Formula on the block. It happens every few weekends: A Sprint on Saturday, Max and Lewis crash on Sunday. I joke around but in actual fact I think most can agree that we were all very glad to see both drivers walk away from this crash in Monza this weekend unharmed. To recap: Max’s disastrous pit stop just before Lewis’ on Lap 24 meant that as Hamilton exited the Pit Lane, he and Verstappen were racing head to head. Into the Variante del Rettifilo the two cars went, making contact into the chicane and colliding in the crash of the season so far. I mean, talk about a metaphor for wanting to be at the top. Just like Silverstone, Max spoke out after the crash and blamed Lewis for not leaving him enough room. Unlike Silverstone, it is Max who will this time be serving a 3-place grid penalty in Sochi for the incident, as the stewards published their decision later on today. Interesting… It’s moments like these in which we see how intense the rivalry between these two men is.