For the first-time since the 2021 season finale, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen look set for a titanic battle at the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix, after a thrilling qualifying.
Verstappen claimed pole once again; however, it was George Russell who claimed second, narrowly ahead of Hamilton.
It means Hamilton will be starting directly behind Verstappen, with the 37-year-old likely aware that Sunday is perhaps his final and best chance of claiming his and Mercedes’ first win of 2022.
With a battle looking likely, the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix has been revisited, where Hamilton and Verstappen were both involved in controversy over the first few corners.
Hamilton claimed victory in 2016 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Circuit; however, both Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo believed that he should’ve been forced to relinquish his lead.
During the 2016 edition of the race, Hamilton locked-up at Turn One and ran wide across the grass, before re-joining at Turn Three.
Hamilton wasn’t awarded a penalty of any sort, whereas Verstappen was slapped with a five-second time penalty for doing the exact same thing on Lap 68, which demoted the Dutchman off the podium.
Verstappen was furious after the race and believed he shouldn’t have received a penalty after not “gaining an advantage”.
“When I went off the track towards the end I think it was pretty similar to Lewis on lap one, corner one,” Verstappen said.
“He went off and I felt he gained an advantage, I didn’t even gain an advantage, I was ahead going into braking and when I came back on the track I was the same distance in front so I don’t understand the penalty.”
Ricciardo spoke in a similar fashion to the Dutchman, who questioned how Hamilton was allowed to leave the circuit but “stay in the lead”.
“How you can be leading the race, defend, lock your wheels and go off track and still stay in the lead?” questioned Ricciardo, who was Verstappen’s team-mate at the time.
“I think Lewis deserved a penalty; I think anyone in that position deserves a penalty. I saw Max cut the chicane trying to defend Seb.
“He got a penalty, so I don’t know what was that different between his move and Lewis’. For me, if you lock the brakes and cut the corner, it’s a mistake. You have to pay the price.”
The debacle resulted in FIA director at the time, the late Charlie Whiting, to explain why Verstappen received a penalty and not Hamilton.
Whiting informed that the Red Bull driver received a penalty for gaining a “lasting advantage”, something Hamilton didn’t do after “backing off”.
“The principal difference between the two was simply that in Lewis’ case it was felt he didn’t gain any lasting advantage and in Max’s case he did,” explained Whiting.
“You can see that Lewis makes a small mistake at the beginning, cuts across, gains significant track advantage but then sets about giving that back immediately.
“And you can see on the straight between turns three and four. He backs off to 80% throttle to give that advantage back because obviously he’d got a significant advantage there. And then about a minute later the Safety Car deployed and that advantage gone completely. So the stewards felt no lasting advantage.
“If Max had done the same thing on the straight between turns three and four he would certainly have lost the place. So I think that’s why the stewards felt it deserved a penalty because the driver had gained a lasting advantage. That was the fundamental difference between the two incidents in the eyes of the stewards.”