The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix panned out to be a weekend of deja vu for Lewis Hamilton. For instance, Max Verstappen crashing out of the penultimate qualifying session reminded many of the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix where a small mistake from Hamilton around the final corner cost him the world championship title.
However, if you felt those two incidents were quite similar, here’s something that offers an even bigger resemblance, according to the 7-time world champion. During the post-race press conference in Jeddah, Hamilton opined that the lap 38 incident featuring Verstappen reminded him of the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen was embracing a dominant spell around the galvanizing Spa Francorchamps when spits of rain started dampening the tarmac. Hamilton, who was a far inferior driver in the race till then, somehow fired up his car against the contrastingly struggling Ferrari of Raikkonen.
The duo entered the final chicane side-by-side, with Hamilton around the outside. However, with Raikkonen defending hard, Hamilton had to back out, consequently missing the chicane and joining the main straight ahead of the Finn. Hence, the Briton returned the lead back to Raikkonen only to reclaim it on the follow-up long straight.
The then race director, Charlie Whiting, noted the incident and initially affirmed that the move was ‘Ok’. However, following the race, the stewards handed the McLaren driver a 25-second time penalty, as he not only lost the lead to Raikkonen but also P2 to Nick Heidfeld.
Similar to Spa 2008, Verstappen ran off the track around turn 1 and kept himself ahead of Hamilton. However, considering that the stewards would grade it as an unfair advantage, Verstappen decided to give up the lead but just before the DRS detection point so he could snatch the lead back again by the end of the DRS zone.
Well, we all know how this ploy ended. “I was just reminiscing about 2008 in Spa, in my first championship-winning year,” Hamilton said about his battle with Verstappen according to The Race.
“I was fighting Kimi into the last corner, the Spa chicane. And he ran me wide. I went across the chicane and I had to let him back past. But, then I overtook him straight away. I remember Charlie Whiting telling the team that it was OK and then finishing the race but then getting a penalty and finishing third.”
Overall, it was indeed a smart plan by Verstappen. But the fact that he was looking to execute it against an immensely experienced driver like Hamilton complicated the end result. The title-contending duo now heads to Abu Dhabi equal on points. There is no denying that the whole racing fraternity will be watching this potentially electrifying title showdown.