Halo saved my life – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton says he is grateful to be alive following his extraordinary crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix. The two title contenders crashed for the second time in five races, following another tantalising chapter of Formula 1’s best championship battle of recent memory.
Verstappen was deemed at fault for the accident and has been given a three-place grid penalty at the next race in Sochi. On lap twenty-six Verstappen approached the Variante Del Rettifilo (first chicane) at 225mph, as Hamilton exited the pits. He then attempted to squeeze past Hamilton at the right-left chicane but ran off the track and onto the kerbs.
Verstappen was sent out of control and airborne into Hamilton’s path, with the rear-right wheel crushing the top of Hamilton’s Mercedes. In dramatic scenes, the Mercedes driver was almost hit in the head, but escaped largely unhurt, with him only complaining only of a stiff neck and soreness.
But three hours after the accident, Hamilton admitted he was still in pain and said he will be forced to seek medical attention ahead of the next round in Sochi. Hamilton said, “I feel very, very fortunate today. Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.”
“We are taking risks and it is only when you experience something like that that you get the real shock of how you look at life and how fragile we all are. If you look at the images of the crash, my head is really quite far forward in the cockpit. I have been racing a long, long time. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today.”
Reacting to Verstappen’s penalty, Hamilton added: “I am proud of the stewards. It sets a precedent and it is important for us moving forwards, for the safety of the drivers, that there are rules in place.”
Hamilton was initially sceptical about the introduction of the halo, calling it the “worst-looking modification” in the sport’s history and vowed not to use it, unless it became mandatory.
But along with saving his life, Charles Leclerc after his car was struck by Fernando Alonso’s flying McLaren following a first-lap accident at Spa-Francorchamps in 2018.
FIA begin investigation into Verstappen-Hamilton crash
The FIA has launched an investigation into the “unusual” crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the first chicane while fighting for the lead of the Italian Grand Prix. Race director Michael Masi said that although the collision was relatively low speed, the FIA’s safety experts would still take a look.
The accident happened when attempting to overtake, the rear of the Red Bull lifted of the kerb launching him into the path of the Englishman, landing with the on Hamilton’s head resting on the halo.
Masi told reporters, “Incidents that are different, so it’s not necessarily high G impacts or anything like that, but are unusual, we do look at. Our safety department does look at them in detail, investigate and see what we can learn and what we can improve for the future.”
“That’s how we have a whole lot of the safety features that we have today and will continue to evolve into the future. We are already collecting all of the data, so we have all of the information and that will all go to our safety department together with any photographs and anything else we have along the way.”
The stewards decided that the dutchman was to blame for the accident, handing him a three-place grid penalty for Sochi.
Sainz still “going through a learning process”
Carlos Sainz says he is still “going through a learning process” trying to understand his car after suffering a third crash in four weekends in Monza and vowed, “it will not happen again anytime soon”.
In Saturday’s second practice session the Spaniard lost control of his Ferrari through the middle of Ascari, then he spun off the inside before making head-on contact with the wall. It was Sainz’ third crash in four race weekends after going off in qualifying in Budapest before the summer break, and then suffering a shunt last weekend in practice for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
Sainz, who admitted he “needed to rebuild his confidence” after what he called a “massive crash” on Saturday morning, said he still doesn’t have an explanation for what happened.
Following the race, he told Motorsport.com, “It’s clearly an accident that I should have avoided, it’s an accident that I still don’t understand and I don’t have an explanation for. The car has been very neutral in Ascari across the whole weekend, and I’ve been struggling a lot with the balance there.”
He believes that he is still going through a learning process with the car, and he doesn’t believe that there was any link between the three accidents.
Despite suggesting he is still learning how to get the most out of his Ferrari, Sainz had been praised for his quick adaptation to his new team after switching from McLaren ahead of this season.
Sainz is currently seventh in the drivers championship, six and a half points behind teammate Charles Leclerc, and took two podiums for his new team in the first half of 2021.
But his Zandvoort and Monza crashes come after Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto urged the Spaniard to put together entire error-free Grand Prix weekends during the second half of the 2021 season, with Sainz adamant “it will not happen again anytime soon”.
He added, “It’s not ideal, because I cost the mechanics and the team a few too many repairs lately, but I’m sure it will not happen again anytime soon and I will recover from it.”
Aston Martin committed to Vettel
Aston Martin says they are committed to Sebastian Vettel and are keen for him to race for them in 2022. The four-time champion has a contractual option he can exercise to continue with the team after this season, which has a due date in the coming weeks.
Team owner Lawrence Stroll says he expected an answer on Vettel’s future “imminently”. He told BBC News, “We are delighted with Sebastian. It is our firm intention to continue with him next year and beyond.”
Vettel has had a mixed season with the team, since joining from Ferrari, the four-time world champion has veered between some strong races, including a second place in Baku and Budapest, before he was disqualified for a technical infringement, and other less convincing performances.
His options to remain in F1 are limited, his only options are the second seat at Alfa Romeo and the two at backmarkers Haas are the only ones yet to be announced.
Stroll said he was “unconcerned” by Vettel’s growing involvement in environmental causes, which “have no bearing whatsoever on our strong and ongoing desire for him to continue to drive for us in Formula One.”
Compulsory Friday running considered
F1 motorsport managing director Ross Brawn has confirmed that plans are being made to make rookie running compulsory in Friday practice sessions from 2022. Although all the teams can run junior drivers, but only the teams towards the back of the grid tend to run juniors.
It is yet to be determined on how many weekends teams will have to run a rookie next year, but one complication is that it will have to be dovetailed with the sprint schedule because for such events FP1 is the only chance for race drivers to run before qualifying.
Brawn told Motorsport.com, “Friday running is coming in. On Friday, each team will have to run FP1 with a rookie. And we’re being very careful about how we define a rookie. Let’s wait and see how we define it. I think it’s next year they’ll need to run a young driver on a Friday, every team a certain number of occasions.”
Asked about the lack of race seats for those drivers to progress to, Brawn added, “Look who we’ve seen come in, we’ve seen George [Russell] come in, Charles [Leclerc] come in, Max [Verstappen] come in, we’ve seen other drivers come in. So there is the opportunity there. It’s great to try and help, but I don’t think we’re lacking in young drivers coming through into F1.”
However some teams do not have active young driver programmes, notably McLaren, and will thus now have to begin a search for suitable candidates. However, team principal Andreas Seidl says the team are very supportive in putting mandatory sessions in place.
Adding, “very supportive in putting mandatory sessions in place. It’s very hard for rookies nowadays with all the limited testing to get seat time. So we’re very happy with that, and we are also in favour to promote this even further more.”
“It is the discussion we are having with the others teams, FIA and F1 going forward. I suppose we are looking into who we actually want to give the chance to be in our car for these sessions. That’s a process that is ongoing at the moment.”
Seidl said the team has no issues giving up Friday’s and to start with they were speaking about two or three practice sessions so it’s a good first step and in the future they would be also happy to ramp this number of sessions up.
Raikkonen fit to return in Sochi
Kimi Raikkonen says he is fit to return to racing at the Russian Grand Prix. The Alfa Romeo driver who announced his retirement at Zandvoort missed both the Dutch and Italian Grands Prix after testing positive for coronavirus.
“I am all good. See you at the next GP,” he posted on Instagram on Monday.
The Russian event at Sochi on the Black Sea coast, on a circuit that runs through the park built for the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, is on 24-26 September.