Lewis Hamilton says he does not expect title rival Max Verstappen to back down on track – and he reckons they will continue to race each other “hard but fair” as they prepare to renew their battle at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
The two main title protagonists collided last time out at Monza, as they tried to go side-by-side through the first chicane, with both drivers forced out of the race (see the video below). It means Verstappen still leads Hamilton by five points.
“What is important is that we continue to race hard, but fair,” said Hamilton, who said he has no lingering effects from the crash at Monza following a week of treatments and yoga to help ease stiffness in his neck. “I have no doubts that we will both be professional and learn from the past.”
He added: “I never expect a driver to back down. That’s not how I approach racing with any drivers. I think ultimately we all have to be smart and know there is a time you’re not going to make a corner but it’s all about making sure you live to fight at the next corner.
“That’s really just through experience you find that balance and you know it’s not all won on one corner, so there will be other opportunities.
2021 Italian Grand Prix: Huge moment as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collide and crash out at Monza
“I know what it’s like having the fight for your first championship and your eagerness and you go through lots of different experiences and emotions during that time. So as I said I do believe that we will continue to get stronger and I’m hopeful that we won’t have any more incidents through the year.”
Hamilton is competing in his 15th season and as a seven-time world champion, has plenty of experience of the pressure that comes with fighting for a title. Verstappen is in his seventh campaign, but this is his first as a genuine championship contender.
When asked if he thinks the pressure is catching up with Max a bit as we get to the business end of the season, Hamilton replied: “Obviously he won’t admit to it and I’m not going to make an assumption but I’m just saying I remember what it was like when I had my first one and it definitely mounted up.
“It was difficult, it was intense, I was going through a lot of different emotions, I didn’t always handle it the best and that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of pressure, you’re working in a big team, there’s a lot of self-expectation and pressure because the desire to win is huge. So I’m just saying I empathize and I understand that, but I know that we will continue to grow from this.”
He added: “Time will tell [whether or not he can use his experience to his advantage]. I hope so. Of course it has been an incredibly difficult year. It’s not been smooth sailing in terms of our performance as a team with the car and everything, but i hope so. Naturally there’s been a lot of learnings over the course of these first 11, 12, 13 races or whatever we’ve had, so I hope we see that moving forwards.”