‘He doesn’t know me’: Verstappen hits back at Hamilton over pressure jibes


Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen exchanged some pointed, verbal sparring as the pair prepared for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. Hamilton’s suggestion at Sochi that his rival is feeling the pressure of his first Formula One world championship battle was met by Verstappen with scathing sarcasm before being dismissed out of hand by the Dutchman.

Verstappen leads a closely contested title fight by five points from Hamilton and the tension between the two drivers remains high after they clashed at the last round in Italy, the second time they have done so this season. Verstappen’s attempt to pass at Monza ended with him hitting Hamilton’s Mercedes and eliminating both of them from the race.

Hamilton was vying for the championship in his debut season in 2007 when he was 22, went on to win it the next year and has since taken six more titles. Verstappen is 23 and in his seventh season in F1 but has not been in the mix to win the title before. Hamilton suggested Verstappen’s inexperience in a title fight was exposed in him feeling the pressure as the pair fought wheel to wheel.

“Obviously he won’t admit to it, and I’m not going to make an assumption, but I remember what it was like when I had my first [title fight] and it definitely mounted up,” Hamilton said, “It was difficult. It was intense. I was going through a lot of different emotions and I didn’t always handle it the best. There’s a lot of self expectation and pressure because the desire to win is huge.”

The world champion is 36 and in his 15th season in F1 and made a point of noting how his judgment at crucial moments had been forged by years of racing.

“We all have to be smart and know that there is a time where you’re not going to make a corner,” he said. “It’s all about making sure you live to fight the next corner. It’s really kind of through experience you find that balance, and you know that it’s not all won on one corner. As I said, I know what it’s like having your first fight for your first championship, and your eagerness.”

Verstappen has been under the spotlight since he was judged predominantly at fault for causing the collision by not backing out of the corner at Monza but promptly hit back at Hamilton insisting he was entirely unfazed by the pressure of competing with the world champion. When asked about Hamilton’s comments, he deadpanned:

“Yeah, I’m so nervous I can barely sleep. I mean, it’s so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it. Those comments, it just shows you that he really doesn’t know me – which is fine. I also don’t need to know him, how he is. I’m very relaxed about all those things and I really can’t be bothered, I’m very chilled.”

Verstappen’s Red Bull has enjoyed an edge over the Mercedes for much of the season and with seven wins to Hamilton’s four he insisted he was revelling in the fight.

“It’s the best feeling ever to have a car, a great car, where you go into every weekend and then you can fight for a win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re just leading a championship or not.”