It’s in their hands
At 36 and with all those wins and titles behind him, Hamilton is more mature than 23-year-old Verstappen, as he should be. He’s the Prost, if you like, to Verstappen’s Senna, and evidence shows he is more likely to see the bigger picture in the heat of the moment.
But like Prost, Hamilton’s patience has its limits. On the first lap at Monza, the pair touched at the della Roggia second chicane, and it was only Hamilton’s sensible decision to cut the corner – and thereby hand back the third place he’d just gained from Lando Norris – that avoided an accident.
But when the tables were reversed on lap 26 at the Rettifilo chicane and this time Verstappen was on the attack, Hamilton wasn’t about to back out for a second time. He squeezed the space more than he probably would have for anyone else, at a stupidly tight chicane that has always induced contact during dogfights.
Both could have avoided the collision, both chose not to. That Verstappen was handed a three-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Sochi grand prix will clearly make a victory tough for him in Russia, especially as overtaking here is even more difficult than it is at Monza.
But will the threat of punishment make him think twice if the pair once again find themselves going for the same piece of race track? Even with a world title at stake, I doubt it. But what could be the consequences if it does happen for a third time?
They’re still only five points apart, so from a championship perspective the Monza collision had little effect on the season outcome. Next time, if one escapes and scores while the other doesn’t, as at Silverstone, it could be a clincher.
And without a change in attitude from both, there’s every reason it will happen again. As it was for Senna, pure aggression is part of Verstappen’s make-up and he won’t dial it down. Like Prost, Hamilton has earned respect as a clean racer – but one who absolutely won’t be intimidated. Penalties, rules for racing and team boss pep talks only go so far. These two must resolve this impasse between them, to avoid what could become a catastrophe.