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Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is lucky to be alive after championship rival Max Verstappen’s Red Bull landed on top of his car during a dramatic collision on Lap 26 of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Points leader Verstappen was attempting to pass Hamilton as they entered the Monza circuit’s Turn 1 chicane, but their tires came into contact and launched the Red Bull on top of the Mercedes as they slid into a gravel pit.
Close-up images show the right rear tire of Verstappen’s car landing squarely on the ‘halo’ safety device surrounding Hamilton’s cockpit and colliding with his helmet as it passed by.
After the race, Hamilton credited the titanium device, which was added to Formula One cars in 2018, for saving his life.
“Honestly, I feel very, very fortunate today,” Hamilton said during a media briefing several hours after the accident.
“Thank God for the halo. That ultimately saved me. And saved my neck. I think in the actual moment it was a big hit, but all I could think was to get going again.”
Hamilton said he was experiencing neck pain and planned to see a specialist.
After a review, Verstappen was penalized with a three place grid penalty for the next race in Russia, meaning he will start three positions lower than he qualifies for the race.
The Dutch driver said he didn’t entirely agree with the penalty and called the crash a “racing incident” and “unfortunate.”
“We were racing for position today but you need two people to work together to make the corner and Lewis just kept squeezing until there wasn’t room anymore for two cars and that’s when we crashed,” Verstappen said.
Hamilton said he was surprised Verstappen didn’t check on him as he walked away from the scene.
“I did see Max get out and just walk by and I felt that was a little bit surprising, because ultimately when we do have incidents, the first thing we want to make sure is that the guy that we collide with or crash into is OK. But the good thing is that I was able to get out. It was a long walk back and we live to fight another day,” Hamilton said.
McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo went on to pick up the win ahead of teammate Lando Norris and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who started the race in last place.
It was Ricciardo’s first win since 2018 and McLaren’s first since 2012.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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