Lewis Hamilton won’t ‘hold breath’ that racing with Max Verstappen will improve

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton crash at Turn 2. Interlagos November 2022. Credit: Alamy
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton crash at Turn 2. Interlagos November 2022. Credit: Alamy

Lewis Hamilton has said he will “adapt” to racing against Max Verstappen in future and, while he says “I’m sure we’ll grow” while in combat with each other, he is not expecting much to change.

After a year-long title battle in 2021 which saw multiple incidents between the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers, the pair had largely been away from each other on track in 2022 through Verstappen often being well out in front of the field in his RB18, while Hamilton struggled by comparison.

But the two did end up in wheel-to-wheel action at Interlagos at the penultimate round of the season in Sao Paulo, with Hamilton defending from the Red Bull driver at the Safety Car restart.

Verstappen threw his car to the outside of the first part of the Senna S, which subsequently gave him the inside line for Turn 2, but the two made contact at the apex as they jostled for position.

Both were able to race on, albeit Verstappen needing to pit for wing damage, and Hamilton recovering through the field to take second place behind team-mate George Russell – with the Dutchman given a five-second penalty by the stewards for being found to be predominantly at fault for the incident.

Hamilton gave a withering assessment in the aftermath of the crash, simply saying after the race: “What can I say? You know how it is with Max.”

The seven-time World Champion hopes to see things improve between them in the future, but is not quite convinced yet.

“Most likely,” Hamilton told Sky in Abu Dhabi when asked if he thinks his rivalry with Verstappen will have more flashpoints like that in future.

“I think I’ll adapt. You’ve seen in previous years that I try to avoid [contact] in scenarios.

“I’m sure we’ll grow, both sides will grow and improve hopefully so we don’t have experiences like we did in the last race [Sao Paulo], but I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

Former Formula 1 driver and current Sky Sports analyst Martin Brundle believes Verstappen has a “different set of limits” when racing Hamilton specifically, due to his status and long-standing success in the sport.

Hamilton himself also believes his place in the sport has put a target on his back over time, which is a part of drivers wanting to prove themselves against the most successful in Formula 1.

“I think yeah, you’re probably right,” Hamilton said in agreement with that sentiment.

“I remember when I first got to the sport and your target is the guy that has the most championships.

“It was Fernando [Alonso], then it was Kimi [Raikkonen], because Kimi was one of the best drivers here, and then it was Seb [Vettel] – so I think it’s natural.”

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