Defending champion Hamilton lost further ground to Sebastian Vettel in their title battle after the Ferrari driver masterfully managed a one-stop strategy to hold off Valtteri Bottas and claim his second victory in as many races.
Hamilton had to be content with filling the final spot on the podium after he started ninth. Indeed it may have been one place less, but for Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement following a dramatic pit-stop collision with his own Ferrari mechanic.
The mechanic suffered a broken leg in an incident befitting the thrill-a-minute race that remained impossible to predict until the moment Vettel took the chequered flag.
Hamilton’s flashpoint with Verstappen arrived on the second lap. Both drivers were in unfamiliar positions after Hamilton started down the order following a grid penalty and Verstappen’s qualifying crash.
The Red Bull driver sensed blood in his early pursuit of Hamilton, but his no-holds-barred move cost him dearly.
Verstappen lunged underneath Hamilton on the 220mph turn 1 charge, inadvertently colliding with the Mercedes car. Hamilton lived to fight another day, but Verstappen sustained an ultimately terminal left-rear puncture.
Seconds after removing his helmet in the green room before the podium, the Englishman watched a replay. “Such a d***head,” said Hamilton. The stewards took no action, but Hamilton was clearly aggrieved with Verstappen’s conduct.
“I had a coming together with Max and it was an unnecessary collision,” said a marginally more reflective Hamilton. “There needs to be a certain respect between drivers.
Verstappen, who crashed out of qualifying did not concur.
“There was plenty of room for the both of us to go around.”