Allison reveals what Mercedes were so keen to show FIA stewards in aftermath of Hamilton-Verstappen crash
“Michael, I just sent you an email with the diagrams.” Toto Wolff’s radio message to FIA Race Director Michael Masi, after Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s Lap 1 contact at the British Grand Prix, was one of the weirder communiques we’ve heard in F1. But speaking after the race, Mercedes’ Chief Technical Officer James Allison explained what the team had been so keen to impress upon the stewards.
Wolff contacted Masi during the red flag stoppage caused by the crash, telling the FIA Race Director – who’d replied laconically to Wolff’s original message by saying that he didn’t check his emails during a race - that “You should maybe look at this because there is something with the rules.”
And speaking on Mercedes’ own YouTube channel, Allison explained what the team had been so anxious for the stewards to see.
“We were concerned after the incident and prior to the restart to make sure that the stewards had read and were following the FIA's internal guidance to stewards on the rights and wrongs of overtaking,” said Allison. “Because as far as we are concerned… the manoeuvre that Lewis did was absolutely in line with the FIA's overtaking guide.
“If you are on the inside of the corner, overtaking on the inside of the corner, then the guidance requires that you are substantially alongside,” Allison went on. “It’s not required that you are ahead, it requires that you are substantially alongside as you arrive at the corner. Lewis definitely was substantially alongside. He had his front axle well beyond the midpoint of Verstappen's car.
“[Also,] you must be able to make the corner. By make the corner it means go round the corner and not leave the track or lose control of the car. Those are the things you need to satisfy. If you can go round the corner, if you are substantially alongside the other car then the corner is yours... you do not have to cede your position, you do not have to back off, and the other car has a duty to avoid hitting you.”
Hamilton was later deemed by the stewards to have been ‘predominantly at fault’ in the incident – which resulted in a reported 51G crash for Verstappen – and handed a 10-second penalty.
But despite the fact that Hamilton was still able to fight back and win the race – passing Charles Leclerc for victory at the same Copse corner where he’d made contact with Verstappen – for Mercedes’ first victory since the Spanish Grand Prix, Allison maintained that he felt Hamilton had been hard done by.
“I did feel that it was harsh to get the penalty,” said Allison. “I realise not everyone agrees with that, but I still believe that to be the case and I certainly think that whether Copse is a fast corner or a slow corner makes no difference.
“Indeed, later in the race, Lewis made two further overtakes at Copse using exactly the same guidance and there wasn’t a contact in either of those cases," he added. “This is about what are the rules to do with overtaking – and I didn’t see that Lewis did anything wrong with respect to those rules.”