Verstappen wins first F1 sprint race, loses big in main race
The 2021 British Grand Prix held at the Silverstone circuit was preceded by the very first Formula 1 sprint race, which was used to determine the starting order for Sunday’s main event (the order start of the sprint race was decided by the usual qualifying sessions).
The introduction of qualifying for sprint races has been controversial, as has the introduction of almost anything new in F1. It was quite entertaining but also didn’t seem to do or add anything significant to the sport that would warrant making it a permanent feature.
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Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat his rival Max Verstappen to take pole for this qualifying race, but the latter stole the lead when the lights went out and kept it for the duration of the short 17-lap sprint – s ‘Assuring he would be the one to start ahead the next day and scoring three more league points for good measure.
Hamilton’s start was better in the main race and resulted in the two drivers fighting for half of the first lap, until the Copse high-speed corner, where Hamilton’s left front wheel made contact with the wheel. Verstappen’s right-back, sending the young Dutchman flying through the gravel and into the wall. The car suffered a 51g shock and Verstappen, who luckily was able to get out of the wreckage, was quickly sent to hospital for checkups and an overnight stay.
Race marshals found Hamilton responsible for the incident and gave him a 10-second penalty, which did little to prevent him from winning the race. The British superstar has thus practically eliminated his disadvantage in the fight for the championship. He was 32 points behind Verstappen before his home Grand Prix. This gap is now only eight points.
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It’s a shame the pair crashed at Copse, as the first half of that opening lap was one of the best wheel-to-wheel races F1 has seen in a long time and could have been part of a Very exciting British Grand Prix. Instead, the race turned into a question: “Will the 10-second penalty be enough to keep Hamilton from passing Charles Leclerc for the lead?”
As the Ferrari was simply far from the pace of Hamilton’s car, the answer was quite clearly ‘no’, much to the delight of local British fans and the disappointment of just about everyone. Many felt Hamilton’s penalty was not severe enough given the damage he caused to Verstappen and the Red Bull Racing team, which will have to spend millions of dollars on parts. He will also have to replace his Honda engine, which can potentially have an impact on the championship as engine components are limited by regulations.
All decisions or actions – in F1 and in life in general – must be judged by the context in which they were made, not by their outcome. It is unfortunate that in this case the result was so out of proportion to the action, and it is surely in bad taste that Hamilton continued to profess how “proud” he was of a victory involving the sending his main rival to hospital – and even more surely inexcusable that Hamilton subsequently suffered racist abuse – but the race marshals cannot be accused of wronging Verstappen last Sunday.
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told that French was the language of romance, but it was English that he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a racing driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles from Kurt.