Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s collision at the Italian Grand Prix will go down as one of the defining moments of the 2021 season - and Formula 1 history. 

Once again, F1’s heavyweight championship rivals came to blows, and this time, they were both forced into retirement with Verstappen’s Red Bull lodged on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes in the gravel trap at the exit of the first chicane. 

The incident sparked debate over who was to blame and how the collision could have been avoided, prompting differing opinions up and down the paddock as the intensity of the 2021 title fight ramped up another notch.

In the end, Verstappen was deemed to be “predominantly” to blame by the Monza stewards and the Dutchman was subsequently slapped with a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Russia.

“It’s fierce and it’s intense,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff after the race. “They need to find a way of how to race each other. 

“We don’t want to have situations in the future where one loses a position and the only way of stopping the other one scoring is to take him out. 

“Both of them need to leave space for each other, race each other hard but avoid accidents.” 

As the championship leader, does Verstappen now need to reconsider his approach in wheel-to-wheel combat with Hamilton? 

Here are the thoughts of our writers…

Verstappen needs to learn to yield too

Earlier this year at Imola, Hamilton elected to bounce over the kerbs as the pair ran side-by-side into the first chicane. 

At the next race in Portugal, Hamilton yielded at Turn 1 when Verstappen swept around the outside, before repassing the Red Bull driver later. 

In Spain, the pair came close to colliding when Verstappen’s bold, aggressive lunge into Turn 1 forced Hamilton to concede. Hamilton also accepted defeat (albeit to a lesser extent) at Turn 1 in France by getting out of the throttle earlier. 

On all of these occasions, potential incidents were avoided due to Hamilton yielding. 

Things changed with dramatic consequences at the British GP. For the first time, Hamilton was no longer prepared to back down to Verstappen. The result? A crash at Copse. 

While Hamilton felt the wrath of the stewards on that day at Silverstone, there was a case to argue that Verstappen would have been better letting the place go and staying in the race.

In Italy, there had already been a close shave at the second chicane on the opening lap as Hamilton once again was forced to take to the run off to avoid full-on contact as Verstappen covered the inside line.

When they did collide at Turn 1, neither driver seemed willing to back out. 

While Hamilton could have given Verstappen more room, Verstappen also had the option to avoid the collision altogether by skipping down the escape road. He choose not to and the result seemed inevitable. 

As championship leader, the onus has to be on Verstappen to start thinking about the long game in this title race.

Battles must be picked wisely and getting caught up in a crash every time he and Hamilton go wheel-to-wheel is not an effective way to win a world title. 

Lewis Larkam

A balancing act for Verstappen 

Unlike Lewis Hamilton’s former rivals - Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg - Max Verstappen has been more than a match in wheel-to-wheel combat.

Verstappen’s speed and consistency already make him a formidable title rival, but he’s also fearless. 

Hamilton often got the better of Bottas, Vettel and Rosberg, time and time again in wheel-to-wheel duels, ultimately, he had them at arm’s length - which clearly hasn't been the case with Verstappen.

The next time Hamilton comes up behind Verstappen, he’s going to have to second-think or be more cautious given the Dutchman’s aggressive, robust style. 

In my opinion, having that presence and aura on the circuits is a big bonus. 

In saying all this though, there will be a point this season where Verstappen has to relinquish the position to Hamilton for the sake of the championship. 

With the title battle so close, Verstappen cannot afford a repeat of Silverstone - Yes, it was clearly Hamilton’s fault but he still lost 25 points. 

At Monza, both drivers were taken out of the race, meaning Verstappen had a gain of two points across a weekend where Mercedes had the fastest car.

Maybe next time he won't be as fortunate.

At some point in the final part of the season, he will have to be more calculated, he might have to settle for less for the greater good of the title race.

It's a balancing act for Verstappen - one he has to get right. 

It’s completely new terrority for him given that he’s never been in a title fight before, and if there’s one man who will capitalise on an opponent’s weakness, it’s Hamilton.

Connor McDonagh