Max Verstappen’s blunt threat of ban amid Hamilton saga months before Miami Grand Prix

Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton

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Today marks the first ever round of qualifying in the Miami Grand Prix, which is the fifth event of this year’s Formula One World Championship. The race will be held at Miami International Autodrome, after it was granted a 10-year contract to showcase the event. While the original date for its launch was scheduled to be 2019, it was delayed as a result of complications with construction, leading to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to make its debut across the streets of Jeddah instead.

The racing community, however, will now finally get its chance to watch the action in the US, though further issues have arisen in the past week after both of the race’s directors tested positive for COVID-19.

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will be unable to travel to the race if they do not return a negative test ahead of the event.

Tensions on the circuit will no doubt continue, with current world champion Verstappen aiming to claw back some of the deficit between his Red Bull car and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

It promises to be an intriguing rivalry as the season develops, but one Verstappen will no doubt hope doesn’t turn as ugly as his feud with Hamilton.

The pair clashed last year as their championship destiny came to a head in the final round of racing at Abu Dhabi.

The controversial race sparked a major fallout in the sport, with many fans of Hamilton crying foul over the judges’ decision not to follow normal protocol within the race.

Tension between the pair had been mounting for months, including at the British Grand Prix.

And according to a report by the Daily Mirror, Verstappen was on thin ice as to whether he would face disciplinary action over the number of penalty points he has accumulated in the past year.

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The report suggests that a Formula 1 driver is only able to accumulate a total of 12 points in 12 months, or they will face action from FIA, the sport’s governing body.

Verstappen is credited for his “high-risk” style of driving, but this often brings its own hazards, and so far he is on seven penalty points in the past 12 months.

The first of these points are not set to expire until 16 Grand Prixs have been completed, and this weekend’s Miami marks the fifth.

Hamilton was on course to win a record eighth drivers championship in December, but a decision about the safety car allowed Verstappen to pit and get fresh tyres.

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Hamilton was left with old tyres, and the Dutchman able to pass the Briton easily on the last lap to claim his maiden championship win.

On the team’s radio, Hamilton was heard shouting at how the race had been “manipulated”, while his team’s boss Toto Wolff told the race director Michael Masi the decision was “not right”.

The furious reaction of Mr Wolff contrasted with Hamilton’s silence in the weeks following the race, and former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve claimed this was an indication that the driver wanted to distance himself from his boss.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport in January, Villeneuve gave his analysis on Hamilton’s silence.

He said: “I interpret Hamilton’s silence as him wanting to put some distance between himself and Toto Wolff.

“You can lose with style, whereas Toto behaved like someone who is playing Monopoly. The moment he is losing, he throws the whole board into the air. In doing so, Wolff suffered a lot of image damage, in my opinion.

“Hamilton is sensitive to that because he is thinking about his future in America, maybe even in Hollywood.”

Hamilton admitted after the race he had hoped for an apology from the FIA but wasn’t surprised one wasn’t coming.

He said: “Look, I wasn’t expecting an apology and it is not something I have focused on.

“We know that is the way it is, and that was probably not going to happen.

“But at least there is that transparency, and it has been called a human error and that is a positive step.

“We cannot go back unfortunately and change the past so I just look at what I can do now.”

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