Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes was lucky to survive in one piece after a clash with Max Verstappen in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday. The pair came together in the first corner at the start of the second lap. Hamilton’s front wing ripped open the left-rear tyre of the Red Bull, leaving Verstappen limping back to pit lane and eventual retirement.
Although he said he wanted to rewatch the incident before commenting, Hamilton had no question whose fault the incident had been. He referred to his rival as a “dickhead” in initial comments to the media after the race.
“I had a coming together with Max and it was an unnecessary collision,” he said. “I tried to avoid him. I was on the outside but we were relatively alongside each other.
“But I did back out – I realised I had to back out. He continued to come across and that didn’t leave me any room so we ended up touching.
“I was just really grateful my car wasn’t broken so that I could continue, because that would have been really difficult.
“It was a silly move for him because he didn’t finish the race,” he noted “Obviously he’s tending to make quite a few mistakes recently.
“There needs to be a certain respect between drivers,” he complained. “I need to watch it again, but it didn’t feel like a respectful move.”
Hamilton had started the race from ninth place following a gearbox change on Friday. Verstappen began from even further back after crashing in qualifying, and was eager to get to the front as fast as possible.
While Verstappen was forced out of the race by damage to his car, Hamilton continued and eventually finished the race in third place after a frustrating day with problems communicating with his pit all.
“I’m really happy, I started ninth so there it is – not bad at all,” he insisted.
“There were some frustrating points in the race where they couldn’t hear me,” he acknowledged. “So I had to choose particular points when I could speak to them.
“When you’re trying to catch Sebastian who is 25 seconds ahead, to know exactly what to need do to not kill your tyres but make it so you can still catch him in the end, it’s difficult.
“Honestly really, really happy with it,” he said. “Emotion is always firing when you get out the car.
“The heat, the stress, you’re losing weight – it’s so intense. And also really my thoughts on the world championship, I’ve lost two races now.
“To come from ninth and get third, I’m really happy with that – that’s a great damage limitation really.
“But I am 17 points down already after just two races,” he admitted. “Hopefully when we go to the next race we’ll have a better understanding of the tyres and hopefully a fairer fight with the Ferraris.”