Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s rivalry continued to heat up on Sunday — both on and off the track — at an action-packed Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as the Mercedes driver won his third consecutive race to go level on points with the Dutchman in the driver standings with one race remaining in the Formula One season.
The pair came together on a number of occasions throughout the race, including one bizarre crash on lap 37 when Hamilton ran into the back of Verstappen, who was slowing down to allow his rival past after being told to concede first place due to an earlier racing incident.
Verstappen was handed a 10-second time penalty by stewards after the race after having already been hit with a five-second penalty during the grand prix for the incident that allowed him to get ahead of Hamilton earlier on lap 37.
“I’ve raced a lot of drivers through my life in the 28 years,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.
“I’ve come across a lot of different characters and there’s a few at the top which are over the limit. Rules kind of don’t apply, or they don’t think of the rules.
“He is over the limit for sure,” added Hamilton when asked if Verstappen came into that category of driver.
“I’ve avoided collisions on so many occasions with the guy, and I don’t always mind being the one that does that, because you live to fight another day, which I obviously did.
“Then he obviously brake-tested [before their crash], I think to try and get the DRS into the last corner to overtake me again back into Turn 1, so there was a commotion. I thought that I’d lost my wing.”
Verstappen insisted he was just “downshifting and braking for him to go by” and said he didn’t “understand why” Hamilton ran into the back of him.
“Maybe there was some confusion,” he added.
Earlier in the race, Verstappen had got past Hamilton following a restart after the grand prix had been red flagged due to a separate incident, but was also forced to give the position back due to overtaking the Briton by going off the track.
The race was immediately stopped once again for another collision and Verstappen was told to line up in third behind Esteban Ocon and Hamilton for the second restart.
Then came the incidents on lap 37, before Verstappen finally let Hamilton past six laps later, only to immediately overtake him again at the next corner.
However, Hamilton was finally allowed past his rival for good on the next lap to ensure the pair go into the season’s final race in Abu Dhabi next weekend level on 369.5 points.
After the race, a frustrated Verstappen refused to be drawn into a debate on the incidents, but said over the team radio he was unhappy with the officials and that F1 “lately is more about penalties than racing.”
“Emotions were running high at the time and it is what it is,” he told Sky. “I don’t agree with the decisions but I don’t want to waste too much time on it because we don’t need to make headlines out of it. They [Mercedes] don’t deserve that.”