MONZA, Italy — Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Max Verstappen committed the equivalent of a “tactical foul” by colliding with Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix.
The two championship rivals took each other out of the race on lap 26 when Verstappen attempted to pass Hamilton at Monza’s tight first chicane after losing a position in the pit stops.
Verstappen positioned his car on the outside of Hamilton’s in the first part of the chicane, but as they reached the second part ran out of room and was launched over the inside kerb.
Verstappen’s car ended up on top of Hamilton’s, with his right rear wheel making contact with the Mercedes driver’s helmet.
“In football, they call it a ‘tactical foul’,” Wolff said before the stewards deemed Verstappen “predominantly to blame” and gave him a three-place grid penalty for the next race. “He probably knew that if Lewis stays ahead that is the race win possibly.”
Asked if that meant he felt Verstappen was entirely to blame, Wolff clarified his stance.
“No I didn’t say he was completely to blame or an absolute judgement on the incident, what I said was one could see it as a tactical foul with the bias each of us needs to acknowledge,” he added. “We don’t want to have situations in the future where one loses a position and the only way of stopping the other one scoring is to take him out.
“Both of them need to leave space for each other, race each other hard but avoid accidents. It was good fun until now, but we have seen halo save Lewis’ life today and Max had this heavy impact in Silverstone and we don’t want to get to a situation where we intervene because someone gets really hurt.
“It’s fierce and it’s intense. They need to find a way to race each other.”
Wolff pointed out that Hamilton ducked out of a similar situation with Verstappen on the opening lap at the second chicane, when he too could have taken both drivers out.
“I think Lewis gave a lot of space in Turn 4 on lap one and avoided a collision,” he said. “Maybe I am more unsportsmanlike than Lewis because I would have ended the race there [for both drivers], at least we would have had less engine mileage.
“What happened is the other way around but without avoiding the contact. This is what we need to avoid in the future, taking each other out tactically because you know you have lost the position.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner disagreed with Wolff’s stance and said Verstappen would not have had time to commit a tactical foul.
“I don’t think he’s thinking that going through Turn 1 into Turn 2, he’s thinking how can he pass the car ahead,” he said. “I’d be disappointed if Toto suggest that, but for me it’s frustrating as we had a good car today and we wanted to beat them on track.
“We had a difficult pit stop, an issue with the stop so he was held much longer than he should be. So he should never have been anywhere near Lewis, then Lewis had an issue and he should have been well clear of Max, so it put them in a situation racing each other so they’re both going to go for it.”
— to www.espn.com