F1’s title rivals crashed out midway through Sunday’s race at Monza as they went wheel-to-wheel in their battle for position at the first chicane, with Verstappen being launched over the top of Hamilton’s Mercedes in the dramatic collision. 

Both drivers retired on the spot after ending up beached in the gravel together and Verstappen was given a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Russia after the stewards deemed he was “predominantly” to blame for the incident. 

Unlike at the British Grand Prix - where Red Bull launched a scathing post-race attack on Hamilton - both team principal Christian Horner and advisor Helmut Marko did not criticise the Mercedes driver and concluded it was a racing incident. 

And Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin believes Red Bull’s reserved reaction was a sign it felt Verstappen was to blame, even if it didn’t admit so publicly. 

“We obviously felt strongly that Lewis had done absolutely nothing wrong and that Max was the one predominantly to blame,” Shovlin said.

“I think if you look at the fact even Helmut and Christian weren’t trying to blame Lewis, it sort of feels like they know Max was in the wrong, because they will try and blame Lewis at any opportunity.”

Shovlin is convinced the accident ultimately cost Hamilton a genuine shot at victory and “certainly a second place”. 

“If you take the incident with Max and put it to one side, for Lewis it would’ve been a race against only Daniel [Ricciardo],” Shovlin said. “And the issue in the sprint race was Lando had some tow from the car ahead.

“So really it would’ve been a question of whether Lewis could’ve got by Daniel. You know that kind of zone that Lewis goes into when there’s a win on the table and he can see it. 

“It would’ve been a good little battle in the end – but it would’ve needed that pass on track to turn it into a win.

“Ultimately, I think it cost Lewis a win and certainly a second place,” he added. 

“So you’ll always feel that three places is relatively easy to overcome if you’ve got a competitive car. 

“But that’s all in the past now, we need to make sure we put a good weekend together in Russia.”