Lewis Hamilton has questioned if the pressure of a title fight is getting to his Formula One rival Max Verstappen.
The pair of them have endured a fractious relationship of late as the Red Bull youngster has made claim to be the favourite for the 2022 title. The 23-year-old Dutch driver has 226.5 points, five more than the seven-title champion.
The Formula One tour moves onto the Russian GP this weekend, and marks two weeks since the two drivers’ crash at Monza which saw Verstappen’s car clip the top of Hamilton’s. Verstappen has been given a three-place grid penalty for the upcoming race.
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“It’s all about that you get to live to fight another day for the next corner. Naturally through experience you find that it’s not all won in one corner. I’m hopeful we won’t have any more incidents through the year.”
Nevertheless, Hamilton expects Verstappen to remain aggressive.
“He’s never done it in the past so I don’t expect it to happen,” Hamilton said.
“And I think that’s the way I will approach things, not expecting it, and just try to create the space that’s needed.
“I’m sure he will and we will continue to learn.”
He then took part in what may be some mind games, attempting to disquiet his less experienced rival.
“I know what it’s like fighting for your first championship, there’s a lot going on and there’s a lot riding on it also,” he commented.
“I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences that go with it,” Hamilton continued. “Your eagerness… you go through lots of different experiences and emotions during that time.
“He won’t admit to it and I’m not going to make an assumption, I’m just saying that 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. That’s to be expected, you know, it’s a lot of pressure when you are working in a big team, there’s a lot of self expectation and the desire to win is huge. I empathise and understand that. I know we will continue to grow from this.
“I’ve been here a long time, so it’s that much easier to deal with.
“My first year, I was very young and didn’t have the tools to handle the sort of pressure that was put on me. it’s a lot different for me [now]”.
Verstappen responded to the comments and dismissed them, joking: “I’m so nervous I can barely sleep! It’s so horrible to fight for a title, I really hate it…
“If someone knows me, I think I’m very relaxed about all those things and I really can’t be bothered, I’m very chilled.
“It’s the best feeling ever to have a great car where you can go into every weekend and you can fight for the win. It doesn’t matter if you’re just leading a championship or not.
“Those comments just show that he really doesn’t know me. Which is fine, I also don’t need to know him, how he is fully. I just focus on myself, I really enjoy it out there at the front and hopefully we can do that for a really long time.”
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Source: Euro Sports