Lewis Hamilton admits there were times during his win at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix when he feared he would be put out of the race by “f***ing crazy” title rival Max Verstappen.
The Briton took victory at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which delivered one of the most incredible races of all time, to draw level on points with Verstappen in the drivers’ championship heading into next weekend’s final round in Abu Dhabi – with the duo colliding on lap 37 of a remarkable race.
The duelling pair being tied on 369.5 points – the first time that two drivers have been level on points going to the last race of a season in 47 years – was as a direct result of a scarcely believable turn of events.
Having stormed to pole position on Saturday, Hamilton came out on top after a wild race in which he tangled with the Verstappen as the pair wrestled on the track and bickered off it.
A remarkable coming-together resulted in both drivers being hauled in front of the stewards after Hamilton’s Mercedes hit Verstappen’s Red Bull, with the latter claiming he was braking to attempt to let his rival pass after a five-second sanction awarded during the race for running off the track and keeping the lead.
“Maybe there was some confusion going on… they told me on the radio ‘let him by’ so that is immediately what I did,” the Dutchman said.
In doing so, Verstappen slowed down significantly and Hamilton ran into the back of the Red Bull.
“This guy is f***ing crazy, man,” came the Briton’s radio call.
Race stewards found Verstappen “predominantly at fault” for the collision and he was given a time penalty of 10 seconds, however, it had no bearing on the final result.
Asked afterwards about the incident, Hamilton accused his rival of “brake-testing” and said there “were scenarios” in which Verstappen drove too dangerously.
“I know I can’t overtake someone off track and keep the position – that is well known between all us drivers, but that does apply to one of us I guess.
“There’s a few at the top which are… kind of, yeah, over the limit. Rules kind of don’t apply, or don’t think of the rules.”
Verstappen claimed after the race, “This (sport) is more about penalties than racing. In general lately it is the trend in F1… We just have to deal with it.”