F1 title race won't be decided in a Senna-Prost-type crash, says Hamilton


Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has suggested that this year's Formula 1 title race could end up being decided in a deliberate crash. Not so, say Hamilton and Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen bump fists

Respect is key, says Hamilton

Lars Baron/F1 via Getty Images

His team boss suggests that this year’s F1 title could be decided by a collision, and recent history confirms it’s a possibility but Lewis Hamilton says he would never crash into Max Verstappen to win the championship.

“I always want to win it the right way,” said the Mercedes driver in a pre-Mexican Grand Prix press conference, and his comments were echoed by Verstappen who said: “I will always try to keep it clean”.

The Dutchman carries a 12 point lead in the championship with five races remaining. The battle has remained close all season and there is a real prospect that the title will go down to the wire at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

The pair have already collided: at Silverstone, where contact resulted in Verstappen spearing off the track at 180mph, and then when Verstappen found himself on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes at Monza.

While the drivers said that they wouldn’t deliberately set out to crash into their rival, they are unlikely to back down in a wheel-to-wheel battle. “My approach will be the same as the whole year,” said Verstappen. “I always try to score the most available points out there. I of course race hard like Lewis does, like everyone else does.”

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost crash at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix

How the 1989 title was decided in Prost’s favour

Grand Prix Photo

Earlier this week, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said that comparisons with the Senna Prost era were inevitable. The pair collided at Suzuka in 1989, ultimately making Prost the champion, while Senna returned the favour the following year, driving straight into Prost at Turn 1 to take both cars out and win the title.

“If it was to come to the scenario of the last race in Abu Dhabi and they were to be racing each other for the title, whoever is in front is absolutely going to try to do the same as in the Senna-Prost years,” Wolff told the Daily Mail.

“What happened in Monza? Verstappen took Lewis out because he was about to overtake and he was quicker. And that is totally understandable. If you are racing for the championship and you see it fading away because the other guy is overtaking you, what tool have you got other than the one that makes sure he can’t overtake? We’ve seen it with Schumacher and Villeneuve, we saw it with Senna and Prost twice.”

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Asked about the comments, Hamilton said: “I have never won a championship in that way. I would never want to. My point of view you get to win in the right way and that’s through sheer determination and hard work.

“If you’re going to lose it, lose it the right way also, with dignity and knowing that you’ve given it your all and you worked as hard as you could.

“All you can do is give it give it your all and work as hard as you can with your team. If it doesn’t work out for you, you live to fight another day.”

There’s no Senna-Prost-style bitter rivalry between this year’s championship contenders but the on-track altercations have continued: they came close to colliding during practice for the United States Grand Prix, and Verstappen called Hamilton a “stupid idiot”, gesticulating to similar effect.

“ I think at the core of everything has to be [about] respect,” said Hamilton when asked about the incident.

“There are kids watching us and they’re looking for us for inspiration and for guidance. There have been a lot of things that have been said that are definitely not good for young kids that are watching.

“I’m just trying remain positive and keep calm and just be respectful to the drivers I’m fighting.”

For Verstappen, born eight years after the first Senna-Prost clash at Suzuka, its all ancient history.

“I don’t really think about previous historic fights between two drivers,” he said. “It’s the past. I just focus on what I have to do on the track to try and do the best I can. And that’s how, at the end of the day, you’re going to win the championship: to try and get the most available points out there to beat your rival.”