We were full of praise for his victory at the USGP, probably his best race to date because it required self-belief and patience. But when under pressure, yes, Max Verstappen does lack racing etiquette and integrity as he demonstrated at the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix. Verstappen was leading for the majority of the race as Lewis Hamilton charged from P10 to 2nd by lap 18. Lap 48, Hamilton was breathing fire down the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull and went for the lead around the outside of Descida do Lago (turn 4). Hamilton was able to out-brake Verstappen’s Red Bull due to superior engine braking, courtesy of a new engine.
The Mercedes was ahead, Verstappen should have conceded the corner but he made a late braking attempt. He didn’t even bother taking the apex and drove as straight as he could get away with. Hamilton was alert to his championship rival’s tactics and kept a wide enough berth. But the Mercedes was pushed wide, off track and over the run-off area to avoid colliding with his championship rival. It was clear Verstappen deliberately forced Hamilton and himself off. If a calculated collision occurred, more than likely, it would be registered as a racing incident by the FIA.
By lap 58 Hamilton was again hunting for the lead, as he closed onto the back of the Red Bull Verstappen weaved like an amateur. But Hamilton eased into the lead on the next lap as Verstappen and his Red Bull had finally run out of ideas. What this demonstrated was Verstappen’s inability to show any race craft. When under pressure he reverts back to his formative years by weaving in front of his rival.
Ayrton Senna was one of the best defensive drivers of F1, as witnessed in the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix and 1993 British Grand Prix. Verstappen’s error was braking too late into the Senna S and compromising his exit. If he had got his braking strategy spot on Verstappen could have held onto the lead. But his mind doesn’t work like that, he often makes binary decisions, as he did in Silverstone and Monza, both a result of his questionable decision making.