Lewis Hamilton shocked Max Verstappen on Wednesday ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, suggesting the Red Bull driver “feels he has a lot to prove”.
The seven-time Mercedes champion leads Verstappen by 14 points after four races in what is shaping up to be an exciting two-horse race for the 2021 Drivers’ Crown.
The pair produced some electric wheel-to-wheel action and Hamilton acknowledged the “respect between us”.
Their two cars touched only once, at the first corner at Imola, Hamilton saying: “I think I have done well to avoid all the incidents so far, but we have 19 (races) to go and we could login, hope not. “
He added: “I think maybe (Max) thinks he has a lot to prove.
“I’m not necessarily in the same boat there and I’m more for the long term,” it’s a marathon not a sprint “, which is why I finally have the stats I have.
“So I’m going to continue with that and I will do anything to make sure we avoid connecting.” “
“I have nothing to prove,” bristled Verstappen, appearing later at the same Monaco press briefing.
“And avoiding contact, I think it goes both ways. So we did well, it’s true. But we are running hard, we have avoided contact from both sides, so hopefully we can keep doing that and keep being on the track and running hard against each other. “
Monaco’s iconic street circuit is back on the F1 menu after last year’s race was abandoned from the season disrupted by the coronavirus.
The presence of 7,500 fans also indicates that, slowly and gradually, a certain normality is returning to the sports landscape.
In 2019, Hamilton narrowly held Verstappen to claim his third Monaco victory, and given Red Bull’s improved performance this quarter, he anticipates a fierce fight on Sunday.
“Red Bull is going to be very, very hard to beat this weekend. It’s a track that has always been strong for them, and given the gap that exists between us, you can imagine this weekend that they could be ahead, ”said the Briton.
“But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that’s not the case. “
Mercedes team leader Toto Wolff agreed.
“We go into the weekend knowing they are the team to beat,” said the Austrian delighted to be back at the legendary F1 venue.
“It’s such a unique and intense weekend for the drivers and the team, with no margin for error. It sets your butt on fire, and we love the challenge. “
On Friday, a rest day in Monaco, first and second practice, takes place unusually on Thursday, before the third practice session and qualifying on Saturday.
The narrow streets make overtaking tricky, putting even more emphasis on a front row spot in Sunday’s grid.
Hamilton is aiming for his 101st pole position and 99th victory this weekend, while Verstappen is yet to win the checkered flag in the Principality.
© 2021 AFP