An F1 driver crashed out of the United States Grand Prix in an incident which some observers described as the race to fix.
Nico Hulkenberg caused huge controversy when he slowed suddenly in front of Lewis Hamilton before the start of Sunday’s race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Witnesses initially believed Hulkenberg deliberately made the move, as his Red Bull car appeared to have electrical problems. After Hamilton had passed him at the start, Hulkenberg was then able to confirm on Twitter that he deliberately tried to avoid the Mercedes driver and found himself unable to do so.
During the safety car period Hamilton gave Hulkenberg a gesture with a finger as a welcome. Others thought he may have tried to show that he knew what had happened, while others said it seemed to be a just gesture.
While Hulkenberg soon returned to the circuit, he again passed Hamilton through Turn 10 and the drama unfolded. As other drivers lined up to join the race they raced to the pit wall where Hamilton denied Hulkenberg the possibility of a pass.
When Hulkenberg drove past the Mercedes he was lucky to escape with his life.
Hamilton responded to the incident on Twitter on Monday:
The FIA may want to investigate, but not @NicoHulkenberg. After his demotion he came to apologise to Lewis, obviously. https://t.co/FNkfBZz9f1 — Christopher Morgan (@ChrisMorganRpt) November 6, 2018
One F1 correspondent said that Hulkenberg was simply trying to show respect to Hamilton, even if the gesture seemed a bit over the top.
F1’s governing body, the FIA, seems to see things differently. Reuters reported that while he had apologized to Hamilton, “the FIA is highly unlikely to accept it.”
An FIA representative said that the team operating Hulkenberg’s car had allowed him to race by the rules and that if he was guilty of a deliberate act he could be punished as a result.
The FIA confirmed that there would be no investigation, but has suggested an investigation may be held, depending on what the drivers have to say. The FIA has also invited drivers to meet to discuss the incident.
Mercedes driver and triple champion Lewis Hamilton has spoken about the incident.
Big Mistake. Trying to beat Nico with engine settings and getting out of line. Thinking he was off track. Will look at it again & learn from it. Definitely won’t stop fighting. 👊🏼 — Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 5, 2018
Hulkenberg then commented on Hamilton’s comments, posting a message to his team:
Thanks, @LewisHamilton! We all made the same error in Texas and I hope to beat you in future #GPManor — Nico Hulkenberg (@nico_hulkenberg) November 5, 2018
The FIA has scheduled a team meeting and drivers have been invited to send them their views about the incident.
F1 has an excellent safety record and F1 Drivers Association head Claire Williams has confirmed that it is unlikely that drivers will challenge this in future.
Nico Hulkenberg’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo said he could forgive Hamilton for the gesture, but said that the FIA had made the right decision.