December 10, 2023

Verstappen: Hamilton did not follow racing rules in first-lap F1 battle

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field on the opening lap

The Dutchman had made a poor getaway from pole position and lost out to Mercedes driver George Russell into Turn 1.

Then, as Hamilton got a run on him out of Turn 2, he was cautious under braking for Turn 3 and that allowed his Mercedes rival to get his nose inside.

As Hamilton snatched second, he moved wide on the exit and Verstappen felt he had not been given the necessary racing room that the rules dictate.

He complained on the team radio about the incident and said after the race that he felt Hamilton’s actions were not within the regulations.

“From my side, I just tried to avoid contact,” said the Red Bull driver. “It’s quite clear in the rules what you’re allowed to do now on the outside. Clearly, it’s not followed, but that’s okay.

“But we had good pace. We pass them anyway. But it’s something for the next races to take into account.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, the rest of the field at the start

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

At the start of last year, the FIA published guidelines for drivers to better inform them of the circumstances that were required for them to give racing room to rivals after overtaking moves.

It said about cars going down the inside: “In order for a car being overtaken to be required to give sufficient room to an overtaking car, the overtaking car needs to have a significant portion of the car alongside the car being overtaken and the overtaking manoeuvre must be done in a safe and controlled manner while enabling the car to clearly remain within the limits of the track.

“When considering what is a ‘significant portion’ for an overtaking on the inside of a corner, among the various factors that will be looked at by the stewards when exercising their discretion, the stewards will consider if the overtaking car’s front tyres are alongside the other car by no later than the apex of the corner.”

Verstappen said he had deliberately taken it a bit easy early on because he did not see much to gain by taking too many risks.

“We had a very poor start and then lap one I was careful because I had a lot to lose and they had a lot to win,” he said.

Red flag mess

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, arrives on the grid

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Verstappen said that the performance of his car had been good throughout the race, as he said his biggest problem was dealing with the “mess” of the FIA’s red flags.

“I think the pace of the car was quick, you could see that straight away,” he said.

“We were always there waiting for the DRS to open up to have a chance to pass.

“But yeah, with these red flags, I don’t know, the first one maybe you can do it, but I think that second one I don’t really understand. So it was a bit of a mess.

“But yeah, we survived everything. We had good pace in the car today again and we won, which of course is the most important.”

Verstappen’s only worrying moment was late on when he had a brief run across the grass at the penultimate corner after he tried to minimise a lock-up.

“I didn’t want to flat spot the tyre completely, so I ran a bit wide but we had a good margin,” he said.

“It’s great to win here, my first win as well. It’s been a while for the team as well.”

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