Lewis Hamilton denies exaggerating his injuries following collision with Max Verstappen

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Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 23, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. - GETTY IMAGES
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 23, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. - GETTY IMAGES

Lewis Hamilton has denied accusations that he exaggerated his injuries following his collision with title rival Max Verstappen in Monza a fortnight ago, saying he underwent acupuncture on his neck.

Helmut Marko, adviser to the Red Bull Formula One team, accused the seven-time world champion of "putting on a show” to the media after he and Verstappen collided on lap 26 of the Italian Grand Prix, causing the Dutchman’s Red Bull car to rear up and land on top of Hamilton.

After crediting his roll hoop and halo device with saving his life in Italy, Hamilton told reporters he would need to see a specialist over a potential injury to his neck. "My neck is getting tighter and tighter," he said.

Marko later suggested the Mercedes driver had deliberately made a meal of the incident. "It was a normal racing accident, all the stories around it were pulled by Mercedes by the hair," Marko told the Austrian daily newspaper, Osterreich. "Verstappen had already got out [of his car] when Hamilton tried to go back to get out of the gravel. The medical car saw that and drove on. And then a show is put on that poor Hamilton is suddenly injured, etc.”

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton denied exaggerating his injuries, saying he had treatment en route to New York where he attended last week’s Met Gala.

"As I said, I definitely felt some pain after the race and I said I was going to get it checked out,” Hamilton said. "I worked with Angela [Cullen, his physio] after the race and during the flight, had checkups the next day and just worked on it through the week with acupuncture and everything.

"I didn't say I was dying. Of course, aware of the fact that in just a millisecond anything can happen so grateful to come out of it not badly injured. We move on.”

Hamilton added that he was now putting all of his energies into moving on from the Monza incident, which was the second high-profile collision between the two drivers this season after the first at Silverstone which resulted in Verstappen being hospitalised.

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen (R) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton collide during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, on September 12, 2021. - AFP
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen (R) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton collide during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, on September 12, 2021. - AFP

Hamilton, who trails his Dutch rival by 5pts in the drivers’ championship, suggested Verstappen’s relative lack of experience was partly to blame for the collisions.

“Naturally we’re battling for a championship,” he said. “I remember what it was like battling for my first championship and obviously I’m fighting in my 10th battle, something like that. But I remember what it was like and I know the pressures that come with it and the experience that go with it so I can empathise with that.

“I think what’s important is that we continue to race hard but fair. I have no doubt that we will both be professional and learn from the past.”

The stewards ruled Verstappen was predominantly to blame for the collision and have given him a three-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race.

“I never expect a driver to back down,” Hamilton added. “That’s not how I approach racing any drivers.

“I think ultimately we all have to be smart and know there’s a time that you’re not going make a corner. It’s all about making sure you live to fight the next corner. And that’s really just through experience you find that balance and you know that it’s not all won on one corner so there will be other opportunities.

“As I said I know what it’s like having your first fight for your first championship and your eagerness, you go through lots of different experiences and emotions during that time. I do believe that we’ll continue to get stronger and I’m hopeful we won’t have any more incidents through the year.”

Asked whether he felt Verstappen was feeling the pressure, Hamilton said: “Obviously he won’t admit to it, I’m not going to make an assumption.

“But I’m just saying I remember 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, it’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 was just saying that I empathise and understand that. But I know that we will continue to grow from this.”

Verstappen firmly rejected his rival's suggestion that he could start to feel the pressure though, providing a sarcastic response when it was put to him.

"I can hardly sleep at night I'm so nervous," Verstappen jibed. "[It] Shows he doesn't really know me."

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