It was the race-deciding scene of the 2021 F1 Bahrain GP when Verstappen passed Hamilton off-track in the closing stages but was told to give the lead back. Now Verstappen explained he would have preferred to get a time penalty.
The battle for the win of the 2021 F1 season-opener between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was tight but yet Verstappen’s strategy let him end up chasing his rival on fresh rubber. With a few laps to go, he then overtook Hamilton into turn 4 but went outside the track with all four wheels. In the following, his team told him to give back the position to Hamilton, from where he couldn’t catch up and lost the fight for the victory.
After the race, the Dutchman said that he would have preferred to be penalized for the overtaking than to give the position back during the race. Already on the team radio, Verstappen was fuming: “Why didn’t you let me go? I could have easily got the five seconds. I prefer to lose like that than to be second like this.” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner strengthened the message to his driver to let Hamilton pass with a word the team received from the racing stewards. Race control told the Austrian team that Verstappen would have to give back the lead.
A crestfallen Verstappen was disappointed to lose the first battle against Mercedes this year but stayed optimistic, pointing out that it was good to be able to fight against the earlier dominant Silver Arrows. “It’s, of course, a shame but you also have to see the positive,” Verstappen said. “We’re really putting the fight on to them and I think that’s great to start the year like that.”
After giving back the lead following the overshoot of track limits, Verstappen could not catch up to Hamilton again and remained in P2. Still, the Dutchman also reported problems during the race but managed to challenge Hamilton. But the son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen does not know “[…] what happened there, I don’t think that was completely solved the whole race in the low-speed corners.”
He announced deeper investigation from Red Bull but again showed optimism about the good result. “We’ll have a look at that, but overall we managed to finish the race of course, and score good points.”