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F1 rivals clash; Ricciardo ends drought

by The Associated Press | September 13, 2021 at 2:02 a.m.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain crashes with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

A simmering battle in Formula One erupted in spectacular fashion on Sunday as championship leader Max Verstappen and defending champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the Italian Grand Prix, which was won by McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo.

As both Hamilton and Verstappen fought for position midway through the race, their cars came together in a move that could have seriously injured Hamilton. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff went as far as describing it as "a tactical foul" by Verstappen.

"The stewards will decide who is to blame," Wolff said. "In football you would call it a tactical foul. He knew that if Lewis stays ahead, then that is the race win."

The stewards did decide, judging that Verstappen "was predominantly to blame for the collision." They gave the Red Bull driver a three-place grid drop for the start of the next race, the Russian GP on Sept. 26.

"I'm proud of the stewards," Hamilton said after learning of their decision. "I need some time to really reflect on it but I think it definitely sets a precedent and I think it's important for us moving forwards, for the safety of the drivers that there are strict rules set in place."

Hamilton, who had been outspoken against the protective halo at the front of F1 car cockpits before its introduction in 2018, thinks it might have saved his life on Sunday.

"I don't think I've ever been hit on the head by a car before. It's quite a shock for me," added Hamilton, who still sounded distressed several hours after the incident. "And I've been racing a long, long time. So I'm so, so grateful that I'm still here. I feel incredibly blessed. I feel like someone was watching over me today."

Verstappen maintained his championship lead, which he had slightly extended to five points by coming second in the sprint on Saturday.

"We were racing for position today but you need two people to work together to make the corner and Lewis just kept squeezing until there wasn't room anymore for two cars and that's when we crashed," Verstappen said.

"I was there to try and race hard but fair. I don't fully agree with the penalty as I believe it was a racing incident. It's very unfortunate what happened today but we are both professionals and so we will move on."

It was the second major incident between the two in as many months. They clashed on the first lap of the British GP in what Red Bull called a "desperate" move by Mercedes driver Hamilton that saw him given a 10-second penalty and Verstappen hospitalized.

Ricciardo celebrated in his traditional style on the iconic Monza podium, drinking champagne from his shoe -- and then getting teammate Lando Norris to do so too.

It was McLaren's first win in nearly nine years, since Jenson Button took the checkered flag in Brazil in 2012, and Ricciardo's first win since Monaco in 2018. He finished 1.747 seconds ahead of Norris and 4.921 ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who turned in a strong performance after starting from the back of the grid after a penalty for taking a new engine.

"About time. Oh wow," Ricciardo said. "Even if we got the start it wasn't guaranteed that we'd lead the whole race. We didn't have mega speed but it was enough to keep Max behind.

"To lead literally from start to finish I don't think any of us expected that. But there was something in me Friday, I knew something good was to come."

But the biggest talking point of the race came on Lap 26.

Hamilton had pitted from the lead and returned to the track just in front of Verstappen. Verstappen tried to come up the inside on a turn as the seven-time champion defended his position.

As the two made contact, Verstappen's car catapulted onto the top of the Mercedes as both slid into the gravel.

"That's what you get when you don't leave the space," said a furious Verstappen over team radio.

Both drivers were able to walk away from their cars though Hamilton took a long time getting out of his, only clambering out after Verstappen had long gone.

"I did see Max get out and just walk by," Hamilton said. "I felt that a little bit surprising because ultimately when we do have incidents the first thing we want to make sure is that the other guy that we crashed into is okay.

"But the good thing is I was able to get out. It was a long walk back but we live to fight another day."

Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, right and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain crash during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, right and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain crash during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia drinks champagne from his shoe as he celebrates after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia drinks champagne from his shoe as he celebrates after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia, right, celebrates after with second placed Mclaren driver Lando Norris of Britain after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia, right, celebrates after with second placed Mclaren driver Lando Norris of Britain after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Lando Norris of Britain drinks champagne from a shoe of Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia who won the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Lando Norris of Britain drinks champagne from a shoe of Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia who won the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Mclaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Print Headline: F1 rivals clash; Ricciardo ends drought

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