‘A can of worms has been opened by this’: Damon Hill fears let off for Max Verstappen after his controversial clash with Lewis Hamilton in Brazil could change how drivers race… and he fears a similar incident between the title rivals ‘may happen AGAIN’
Damon Hill believes the decision to let Max Verstappen off in regards to his controversial battle against Lewis Hamilton at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix will have a huge affect on how drivers now race in Formula One.
After new evidence emerged of the Dutchman appearing to force his chief title rival off the circuit while defending the lead at Interlagos, the race stewards rejected a review request from Mercedes having initially branded the move on lap 48 as a ‘racing incident’.
Many drivers, fans and pundits were split over the incident. Some saw Verstappen’s actions as deliberate with his car having been nowhere near the apex of the corner, as he also went off the track to defend from Hamilton who had to take evasive action around the outside.
Max Verstappen pushed Lewis Hamilton wide off track but Red Bull star escaped punishment
Max Verstappen (left) and Lewis Hamilton (right) are in a fierce world championship battle
However, there was no clear evidence that Verstappen’s motive was to force Hamilton off the road, as the fresh evidence of his on-board camera showed he never steered towards his opponent who was trying to pass around the outside of the corner.
Hill though fears that the act itself will now give every driver a precedent to act by in future races and that it could alter how overtakes are made and defended in the sport.
‘The worry is a can of worms has been opened by this,’ the 1996 world champion told Sky Sports.
‘How does a driver now approach their overtake or defending manoeuvres – can they just run someone off the track?
Damon Hill believes decision to let off Max Verstappen will have a big impact on Formula One
Onboard footage from Verstappen’s car did not provide enough evidence for the race stewards to overturn their initial racing incident verdict from the race in Brazil
‘[Mercedes boss] Toto [Wolff] wanted to raise this issue to get clarification going to the next few races because it may happen again.’
Asked on Thursday if he would make the manoeuvre again, Verstappen said: ‘Yes. As a driver, you know exactly what you can and can’t do in the car.
‘We were fighting hard, braking late into the corner, and the tyres were worn. If I had turned more abruptly to the left he would have just spun off.’
Hamilton, who produced one of his most outstanding drives to grab his 101st career win, was uncomplaining immediately afterwards, but on Thursday said: ‘It is difficult to judge when you haven’t seen all the angles. I’ve relooked at it and I have a different viewpoint, naturally, now.’