(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko says claims Max Verstappen deliberately took out championship rival Lewis Hamilton at Monza are “nonsense”.
“That’s what happens when you don’t leave the space,” championship leader Verstappen declared on the radio whilst still perched atop Hamilton’s Mercedes on Sunday.
Replays showed that the seven time world champion was even struck on the head by Verstappen’s rear wheel, proving the effectiveness of the ‘Halo’ innovation.
Hamilton suggested Verstappen was heartless for not checking he was ok.
“I saw Max get out and just walk away,” said the Briton. “I was kind of surprised because I think when we have incidents, the first thing we want to do is make sure the guy you had the accident with is ok.”
He said he will seek medical checks and therapy for a stiff neck, but Verstappen insisted he only walked away when he realized Hamilton was basically “fine”.
“He was still trying to move the car when I got out,” the Dutchman said.
“If you were in trouble, you wouldn’t be doing that.”
Nonetheless, it was a momentous and symbolic moment in their epic 2021 world championship battle, with stewards ultimately dropping Verstappen three places down the grid for Sochi.
“It’s clear the two of them will not be friends,” Red Bull top official Marko said.
“It’s our fault with the pitstop that Max was near Hamilton. But I would declare it a racing incident.
“Hamilton could have left more space, but assuming Max did it intentionally is nonsense. It’s not like Prost and Senna either. The difference is huge.
“The result may be the same, but that was on purpose. But this time neither of them had any such intention. You cannot plan for both of you to be out.”
Hamilton, though, is worried that the pair will now continue to clash when wheel-to-wheel. He said he hopes the Verstappen penalty calms things down.
“If not, it will continue like this. I am not known for incidents such as this,” said the 36-year-old.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who called Verstappen’s move a football-style “tactical foul”, agrees: “Lewis and Max have to somehow find a way to treat each other on the track.
“It would be bad obviously if the next eight races ended with eight accidents.”
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher, though, sides with Marko in denying that Verstappen would have done it on purpose.
“I don’t see any intent, which would be against the nature of a real racer. Max just tried desperately to win the corner,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“For me it was like a stalemate in chess – there was no move for anyone. As a steward, I would have said it was a racing incident.”
Although backing the stewards’ verdict, F1 race director Michael Masi said he sees no reason for the FIA to try to intervene with the intensity of the title duel going forwards.
“We will continue to consider each incident separately,” said the Australian.
“Whether there is any pattern to such incidents depends on whose side you are on. I’m sure Christian Horner sees it differently to Toto Wolff.
“But I’m not going to play these games,” Masi insisted. “We are having a fascinating title battle with the top two drivers – let’s focus on that.”