Whether a split-second misjudgement or an act of deliberate skullduggery, everyone has their opinion on Lewis Hamilton’s collision with Max Verstappen.
The consequences: the Dutchman was left battered and bruised by the crash with the Brit, and while the physical wounds will heal, one can only wonder how long it will take for the mental scars – Verstappen was eventually taken to hospital in pretty urgent fashion – to resolve themselves.
At just 23 years old, vigour will partly carry the Red Bull star through his ordeal, though the crux of his recovery has been shaped by using racing simulators to get his feet back on the ground.
Promisingly, Verstappen took part in the iRacing 24 Hours of Spa event just days after his crash at the British Grand Prix, representing Team Redline in the popular event. This wasn’t simply a recreational hobby either as the 23-year-old used a brake pedal set up to replicate that of his Red Bull RB16B.
“What was a good verification for Max was that in his seating position, which is fairly similar to the real car, he could comfortably push away 100 kilos with his brake pedal for two hours, without his back suffering or experiencing any weird pains,” he said. “So the sim race confirmed to him that his knee and ankle were fine.”
It’s something of a surprise that Verstappen dedicates so much of his time to sim racing, particularly given the rigours of the F1 campaign and what the Dutchman has already been through this term. Nevertheless, Kerkhof confirmed that Verstappen is free to race as much or as little as he wants with Team Redline, who have been remarkably successful of late.
In addition, this form of training may be useful for the Red Bull ace who may feel as though sim racing is sharpening him up behind the wheel, which is handy given that he’s slipped behind Hamilton in the standings.
Currently, Verstappen is staked at the same 5/6 odds as Hamilton himself to win outright, according to the 2021 Driver’s Championship F1 betting odds. Meanwhile, the likes of Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas are presently staked at 200/1 in their respective third and fourth-favourite positions.
Given the sheer determination he’s demonstrated already this season, who would honestly write Verstappen off from recovering his lead? The astute driver is doing all he can to optimise his chances, even in spite of all he’s been through.
Paying the Penalty
Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, Verstappen’s campaign is likely to be hampered by a seemingly inevitable grid penalty. The Dutchman is onto the third of his permitted three engines for the season already, with the crash courtesy of Hamilton at Silverstone rendering his second Honda power unit unsalvageable.
This is significant because it means that if Verstappen’s Red Bull suffers another significant collision that requires a new engine, he will have to start a future Grand Prix from the back of the grid – not ideal when you are chasing the seven-time champion of the world.
The standard F1 engine is designed to run for about seven or eight races at standard usage, however, it’s looking increasingly likely that there may be another 11 engagements in the 2021 campaign – that would make it practically impossible for Verstappen to run the same engine until the end of the season.
Will such a technicality end his title hopes? We can only wait and see.