Seconds after Max Verstappen was sent flying into the tyre wall at Copse Corner by a fiercely determined Lewis Hamilton, it was hard not to cast the mind back to 1990 when another two title contenders, brimming with dislike, thrashed it out for supremacy.
Then fans had Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, the most bitter of rivals, going wheel to wheel, elbows out and no limits to what they would do to win. At one stage they were team-mates, by name only, it is worth stressing. There was nothing cordial about that relationship.
In 1990 it was over in nine seconds, Senna ending Prost’s race with a move on the inside at the first corner of the Suzuka circuit in Japan. Senna’s ruthlessness ensured he won the world title that day. Did the ends justify the means? Was it deliberate? It remains one of the most notorious collisions in motorsport history.
And so as much as Verstappen and Hamilton had exchanged barbs in media sessions and had clashed twice already this season, albeit less dramatically, Silverstone felt like a hugely significant turning point.
The complexion of the Formula One title race changed dramatically when Lewis Hamilton took Max Verstappen out of the British Grand Prix in a first-lap collision – this is a battle for the ages
Verstappen’s wheel (left) was ripped off and he flew dangerously in to the tyre wall at 180mph
There is history of issues between the pair after coming together twice before this season
Alain Prost (left) and Ayrton Senna (right) had one of Formula 1’s greatest ever driver rivalries
Journalists in the media suite at Silverstone were in total agreement – the shackles were off, the battle was personal, as suspected, and this was now a rivalry for the ages, as good as anything fans had had to sink their teeth into for at least a decade.
In a way the two best words for this row is generational warfare. That’s what it is. A 23-year-old and a 36-year-old. An alpha versus an alpha. The student trying to teach the teacher.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had it right as he spoke after Hamilton shook off his Turn 9 crash with Verstappen to win his eighth British Grand Prix.
‘It always takes two to tango, and these two are not giving each other an inch,’ Wolff said. You can say that again.
Red Bull remain so incensed at the 10-second penalty handed to Hamilton by race stewards – in the end it was meaningless as he overcame it to take the race win – that they are considering an appeal.
FIVE ICONIC CRASHES BETWEEN F1 RIVALS
1990 – Alain Prost/Ayrton Senna (Japanese Grand Prix)
1994 – Michael Schumacher/Damon Hill (Australian Grand Prix)
2010 – Mark Webber/Sebastian Vettel (Turkish Grand Prix)
2017 – Sebastian Vettel/Lewis Hamilton (Azerbaijan Grand Prix)
2021 – Max Verstappen/Lewis Hamilton (British Grand Prix)
It is understood they are reviewing footage to determine whether to lodge an appeal against the stewards’ verdict, which they believe to be too lenient.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: ‘There are rights that are available to us. We will look at it and talk it through.’
And this is as much a rivalry between Horner and Wolff, the teams Mercedes and Red Bull, as it is for Verstappen and Hamilton.
When this battle resumes in two weeks time at the Hungaroring near Budapest, Hungary, the race start will have F1 fans giddy with excitement.
Between now and then talk will be dominated about the inevitable response. Will Verstappen play fair – or have rules now gone out of the window? Silverstone means the box office appeal is through the roof.
While he didn’t name names, Wolff is right, it does take two to tango in a title battle. Senna needed Prost as much as Michael Schumacher needed Damon Hill and James Hunt needed Niki Lauda. Go even further and you have Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.
This sport has been blessed with some tantalising battles over the years but Hamilton’s dominance had seen F1 become all-too predictable. Not now.
With Hamilton chasing history and Verstappen ready to dethrone the F1 monarch, it is all set up for a nail-biting second half of the season.
All of a sudden, Hungary is must-see TV.
In 1989 there was great drama when Senna and Prost, then team-mates, collided off track
Michael Schumacher (right) often showed little mercy in his battles with Damon Hill (left)
Hamilton saw one of his front wings damaged in a collision with Verstappen in Imola this year
MAX VERSTAPPEN’S HISTORY AGAINST LEWIS HAMILTON
Malaysia, 2017 – The birth of a great rivalry came in 2017 when Verstappen probed Hamilton from the first lap, filling the Brit’s mirrors and looking for a gap. Hamilton opted against blocking Verstappen’s attempted overtakes with a title in mind and reluctantly let the Dutchman pass him to win the race.
Bahrain, 2018 – Verstappen was forced to retire after receiving a puncture from a collision which caused Hamilton to question 21-year-old Verstappen’s maturity. The British driver called Verstappen a ‘d*******’ when he saw the incident before the podium ceremony, although he later apologised. He also said Verstappen lacked respect.
Mexico, 2019 – Hamilton said Verstappen was ‘a magnet to clashes’ after the pair made light contact at turn two causing both cars to take to the grass and lose positions. Hamilton added: ‘If you’ve seen races before, I always leave Max a lot of space – it’s the smartest thing you can do.’
Bahrain, 2021 – Verstappen was asked to let his rival back through in a late battle after the Dutchman went off track limits to pass the Brit. ‘Why didn’t you let me go? I could have easily gotten the five seconds (back from a potential penalty),’ fumed Verstappen on the radio. ‘I prefer to lose like that than to be second like this.’
Imola, 2021: Verstappen came out on top at Imola this year as they came wheel-to-wheel again on the first lap. Hamilton bounced over the kerbs, breaking a key part of his front wing which cost him dearly, with Verstappen going on to win by 22 seconds.
Silverstone, 2021 – Hamilton was under pressure to deliver and prove he was still fighting in this title race and it took nine corners to find out how committed he is. Hamilton took an inside line at Copse, caught Verstappen and the rest was history. Winning made it a significant day
Hamilton has had Fernando Alonso, then Sebastian Vettel and even his own team-mate, Nico Rosberg, for rivals over the years.
One Spanish journalist brought up to colleagues Hamilton’s famous collision in Baku in 2017 with Vettel. No love lost there looking back.
But Vettel apologised, case closed. His rivalry with Hamilton never had the edge or the bitterness that this one with Verstappen seems to possess. And Hamilton was offered the chance to apologise to his Dutch rival and the Red Bull team – he declined to do so, believing he didn’t need to do so.
The move that sent Verstappen off at Copse, running into the tyre wall at a terrifying 180mph, was done in the the most uncompromising fashion.
It wasn’t deliberate but it was ruthless, whether Hamilton wants to plead his innocence or not. Mercedes sent diagrams over email in a bizarre twist. Red Bull director Helmut Marko was calling for a Hamilton suspension on German TV. On Monday, Jos Verstappen claimed the Briton should have been disqualified.
The hullaballoo was like nothing fans have had to salivate over in recent years.
Back to Senna and Prost and 1989, a year prior to that decisively infamous collision to seal the Brazilian’s title.
Again in Japan, this was one of the sport’s most contentious crashes, dividing opinion on blame, much like it did at Silverstone this weekend.
In the end Senna, who came up the inside much like Hamilton before the cars got tangled up and went off track, was blamed following the race, which he won.
Senna, who famously called Prost a ‘coward’ two years later, was disqualified, labelled a ‘dangerous driver’ and got a suspended six-month ban for having the temerity to appeal the decision of the FIA.
Similarities being drawn were inevitable. Silverstone’s Copse episode will live long in the memory.
Back to Hamilton, were Bernie Ecclestone’s comments about him not being the same fighter he once was ringing in his head as he headed into Turn 9? Maybe. There’s every chance.
A disappointing Sprint race on Saturday, and given he was 33 points behind Verstappen in the title race, Hamilton knew how significant further damage in Silverstone would be.
What transpired may have only lasted 96 seconds but it was one of the most determined starts of Hamilton’s illustrious racing career.
Hamilton had been winless since May and while he has learned to better channel his frustrations on and off track over the years, he is still very much at the top of his game and a man who hates losing.
So, elbows out from second place, the 140,000-strong crowd roaring him on to pass his Red Bull rival and having come close at Turn 6, Hamilton made his move three corners later only to clip the rear right tyre of Verstappen, ending his race altogether.
Christian Horner branded Hamilton ‘desperate’ after a crash which saw his driver go to hospital
The Mercedes driver vowed to continue to race ‘hard but fairly’ after the dramatic collision
Verstappen was badly winded by the impact – 51G force according to Red Bull’s report – and team radio that was later released heard him groaning in pain.
A quick check at the on-site medical centre proved insufficient as he was taken to Coventry hospital 40 miles away for further examination, with a CT scan specifically looking into possible concussion.
So it was in hospital, alongside his father Jos, where Verstappen had to see Hamilton bounce back from a 10-second time penalty for their Lap 1 collision to take victory ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc two laps before the end.
Hamilton celebrated wildly, playing up to the crowd by waving the Union Jack.
You can just picture the silence that no doubt befell the hospital as Verstappen, who suggested to Sportsmail he had no interest in having a celebrity-led lifestyle like Hamilton in the build-up, raged inside at what he saw as ‘disrespectful and unsportsmanlike’ gloating from his rival.
‘Glad I’m ok,’ he tweeted. ‘Very disappointed with being taken out like this. The penalty given does not help us and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track.
Hamilton celebrated wildly in front of 140,000 fans after he rallied to claim the race victory
Verstappen was bemused at what he felt was ‘disrespectful and unsportsmanlike’ celebrations
Verstappen posted a selfie from Coventry hospital after receiving the all clear following scans
‘Watching the celebrations while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behavior but we move on.’
No we don’t. We don’t just move on. We can’t. At least Verstappen and Hamilton won’t bury the hatchet no matter what gets trotted out publicly. If this season has seen escalating verbal jibes and the collision at Imola which left Hamilton seething, this was the explosion fans were crying out for.
A proper fight on our hands. No doubt Senna and Schumacher would have given a nod of approval for the start Hamilton made before taking victory.
Your move, Max.