While fighting for position mid-way through Sunday’s race at Imola, the two championship rivals came to blows at the exit of the first chicane, resulting in both drivers retiring after becoming beached in the gravel.

Verstappen’s Red Bull car was launched into the air during the frightening collision and landing on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes, with replays showing that Verstappen’s right-rear wheel dragged over the roll hoop before striking Hamilton’s head.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the cockpit protection device “definitely” saved Hamilton’s life from what would have otherwise been a “horrible accident”.

Hamilton admitted he felt “grateful” to have walked away from the incident unscathed.

“Thank God for the halo. It saved me,” Hamilton said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been hit on the head by a car before. My head really is quite far forward.

“I’ve been racing a long, long time, I’m so so grateful that I’m still here. Feel incredibly blessed, like somebody was watching over me today.”

The seven-time world champion revealed he had been suffering from a sore head and neck and will see a specialist before the next race in Russia to confirm he has not been injured.

“I probably will see a specialist just to make sure I’m good for the next race, because it’s getting tighter and tighter,” he said.

Hamilton said he found it “surprising” to see Verstappen walk away from the scene of the crash without checking on his condition.

“I saw Max get out and just walk by,” said Hamilton. “I felt that was a bit surprising. When we have incidents the first thing we want to make sure is the guy we collided with is OK.

“But the good thing is I was able to get out. It was a long walk back but we live to fight another day.”

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Verstappen, who has received a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix, said it was clear Hamilton was unhurt due to the Briton attempting to reverse his car out of the gravel bed.

“Lewis was fine, he was still trying to reverse when I was already out of the car,” he added. “When you are not fine, you are not doing that.”

Hamilton explained how in the immediate rush of the adrenalin he was completely focused on trying to get himself back into the race.

“Looking back at the footage, it happened incredibly quick in the car and I was like ‘all I can think of is getting going and how many positions I’m losing’ – I’m still in race mode,” he said.

“I’m in a little bit of pain but just like ‘let’s go’ but the car wouldn’t move. In the moment it was a big hit but all I could think of was could I get going again.”