Make no mistake. Max Verstappen is sick and tired of getting knocked out of Formula 1 races by rival Mercedes.
On Sunday in Hungary, and for the second consecutive race, Verstappen was knocked out of contention due to contact caused by Mercedes. The end result is that Verstappen has gone from a 33-point lead in the championship to trailing Lewis Hamilton by eight points.
Some publications published post-race comments by the Red Bull driver that were strewn with expletives.
“What kind of reaction do you expect?” Verstappen said. “In the last two weeks, there have been too many strange situations in which we lost a lot of points.”
Indeed, just two weeks after the Silverstone saga kicked off, it was another highly tumultuous F1 race, this time on the twisty Hungaroring circuit near Budapest. New championship leader Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas admitted he made a mistake on the slippery run to turn 1 which resulted in contact that took out both Red Bulls.
“I think that’s fair enough,” Bottas said when asked if it was his fault. “Sure, I should have braked earlier, but it’s not easy to assess,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“It’s not like I did it on purpose.”
And for the second consecutive race, Mercedes was punished. Hamilton was handed a 10-second penalty at Silverstone, and this time Bottas was hit with a five-grid-place penalty at F1’s next race.
After the high controversy surrounding Hamilton’s contact with Verstappen at Silverstone, resulting in the Red Bull driver’s brief hospitalization, the latest incident is sure to only raise tensions between the title-charging teams even more.
“Bottas has done a good job for Mercedes today,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner on Sunday, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez also taken out by the second Mercedes driver.
When asked if he would like to apologize on behalf of Bottas, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff answered “I’m doing that in public. We’re sorry.”
Horner, however, reacted: “Is he going to pay the bill? Ultimately, this is racing, and Toto wasn’t driving the car. I’m sure (Bottas) wasn’t supposed to cause a crash. But for us, the consequences are severe, and given we’re in the budget cap era now, maybe the FIA needs to look at that.”
Indeed, Horner said Perez’s engine was damaged in the incident, while Honda ultimately had to replace the engine that was fitted to Verstappen’s crashed car at Silverstone.
There is no immediate penalty for Verstappen, but 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg said a ten-place grid penalty later in the season for needing to use a fourth engine is now inevitable.
“That is a significant disadvantage in the world championship fight against a Hamilton as strong as this,” Rosberg said.
In Hungary, even though Hamilton has taken an eight-point lead ahead of Verstappen, the damage could have been much greater for the Red Bull driver.
“Thankfully, Mercedes did a howler strategically today, and Fernando Alonso looked like he was driving for Red Bull which limited the damage,” said Horner.
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