Lewis Hamiltons defensive radio message after near crash with Max Verstappen at Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen analysed by Coulthard

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Title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have clashed on lap one of the title deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after the seven-time world champion stormed past his main title rival off the line as the lights went out. Verstappen, who had started on pole, lunged up the inside of Turn 7 to try and take the lead back in the winner-takes-all clash, however, bumped tyres with Hamilton, who had to go wide and was forced onto the run-off area.

Hamilton was heard on the radio to Peter Bonnington, his Mercedes race engineer, that Verstappen “pushed me off-track” as Bonington responded: “Copy, we’re happy with the gap that you’ve reinstated.”

Verstappen however was left fuming, ranting to the Red Bull team: “He needs to give that back!” 

The stewards decided there was no investigation necessary, with Red Bull left fuming on the radio to Michael Masi, the FIA race director.

Boss Christian Horner was unhappy on the pit wall, and speaking to Sky Sports F1 added: “We are a little bit shocked at that because apparently, Lewis gave his advantage back, which we have failed to see yet.”

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Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s former team-mate, agreed with the steward’s decision, with Hamilton remaining in the lead in Abu Dhabi, currently in a prime position to take a record-breaking eighth world title.

Speaking to Sky Sports he said:”So difficult. I think it’s OK what they’ve done. Max was a little bit too lungy and too aggressive, forcing Lewis out too strongly, even though he had a right to the corner there.

“Then I would also say Lewis didn’t give back everything that he gained.”

Meanwhile, 2009 champion Jenson Button added: “It was a very late lunge but it was always going to happen, Lewis knew he was coming. He pushed Lewis off the track – I guess – but he stayed on the track. 

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“I’m struggling to understand the regulations right now because obviously in Brazil there was no penalty, but they both drove off the circuit. Max stayed on the track this time.”

Meanwhile, former champion Damon Hill felt Hamilton had to take evasive action.

“You have to say that Lewis had to basically move out the way because otherwise he was going to collide with Max, who made a very uncompromising a late lunge, left no room for Lewis to make any accommodation and had to leave the track,” Hill said on Sky Sports F1.

“But I have to say I’m surprised they didn’t say give the place back.”

Verstappen and Hamilton are level on points heading into the final race of the season, with the winner of the race set to be crowned champion.

Verstappen had the upper hand coming into the weekend after Red Bull pulled off an excellent strategy during Saturday’s qualifying session after using his team-mate Sergio Perez for a tow.

Verstappen is looking to take a maiden championship title in F1 to become the first Dutch champion, with Hamilton keen to become the greatest driver of all time.

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