Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen both praised the tough but fair race that has characterized their rivalry so far in a very competitive Formula 1 season. The two riders faced each other again at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday with Hamilton in the lead and after battling wheel to wheel, the two riders expressed mutual respect and mutual trust which has come to define their racing relationship.
At the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Hamilton and Verstappen competed for the third race in a row this season. With Hamilton in second place behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen made a superb restart after a period of safety car, jumping Hamilton and passing him on the outside in the first corner. Then, when the Dutch rider made a small mistake several laps later, Hamilton jumped up, similarly passing his rival on the first turn and holding him up by maintaining his line at the third turn. Both movements were hard, elbows but fair and recognized as such by the two pilots.
“It’s been really cool, especially when you’re driving a driver and you know you can go to the absolute limit,” Verstappen said of their tight competition this season. “I guess you can trust yourself to just run really hard. It’s still very nice because you can see in the three races we’ve had they’ve been very close but predictable. Lewis never felt anything like, “Oh, we’re going to crash,” or anything like that. I always have full confidence in Lewis to give each other enough space. “
Hamilton has only been beaten once in the F1 championship in the past seven seasons, and then by then-Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Their relationship within the team had become increasingly difficult and marked by several clashes on the track and the feeling that there was little respect for each other during the race. The world champion, however, has not felt anything similar so far with Verstappen and expects their intense but sporty runs to be sustained even if the battle, as it now seems likely, extends over the 20 more of 23 races this season.
« I just support this, ”he said of Verstappen’s comments. “I think it’s naturally about respect and I think both are very, very harsh but fair. This is what makes great racing and racing drivers and I think we’ll continue to keep it clean and keep it cutting edge, but I don’t think any of us have a plan to get close more than we have been.
Hamilton and Mercedes delivered unexpected results in those first three races after Red Bull appeared to be definitely ahead in testing. Mercedes has two victories, both for Hamilton, than for Verstappen, and leads the drivers ‘and constructors’ championships. Hamilton leads Verstappen by eight points in the championship.
Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff believes the two will continue to enjoy a friendly rivalry on the track and that the competitive atmosphere engendered by the fight with Red Bull is only proving to be a positive stimulus. for the team.
“They don’t cross the line on the track yet,” he said. “But it’s going to go hand in hand, and the rivalry may or may not increase, but Lewis is completely relaxed about the situation. He enjoys working with the team to get us up to speed because we weren’t there and now [Mercedes] is just a fun place.
Wolff was also keen to underline the extraordinary level at which his driver – aged 36 and in his 15th F1 season – is now performing. “Lewis drove an impeccable race,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to talk about these outstanding performances from Lewis because they’ve been pretty consistent, it’s his standard now and he sets that standard himself. “
Hamilton has won 97 races and has 99 pole positions. He’s trying to clinch his eighth title this year and last season he had 11 wins in 17 races.
This season, however, he faced a much bigger challenge from Verstappen with a resurgent Red Bull. In the opening race in Bahrain, the duo fought for the lead throughout the final six laps, with Hamilton ahead and Verstappen charging. The Dutchman briefly took the lead, but there was a tragedy when he had to give up the place because he had left the track to make the trip. The duo had given themselves just enough space to run around.
In the second round at Imola, Verstappen attacked Hamilton in the opening corners of the first lap and although Hamilton defended vigorously, Verstappen succeeded in his way. The pair just touched each other, but there was no rule violation and no penalty was imposed despite Hamilton sustaining minor damage while crossing the curbs. The British rider believed the race was quite fair and did not complain as Verstappen won.