Hamilton’s take on Verstappen is as flawed now as it was four months ago

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Almost two weeks on from the latest run-in between the two championship contenders, Lewis Hamilton yesterday offered this assessment of his rival Max Verstappen.

“We’re battling for a championship,” said the man who has won the last four and is seeking an eighth. “I remember what it was like battling for my first championship.

“Obviously I’m fighting in my tenth battle, something like that. But I remember what it was like and I know the pressures that comes with it and the experience that go with it so I can empathise with that.”

Hamilton made his remarks when asked whether he was concerned further collisions may occur between him and his rival. His implication was unmistakeable: Verstappen’s mistake which led to their Monza crash occured because he is feeling the pressure of fighting for his first Formula 1 world championship.

“Obviously he won’t admit to it, I’m not going to make an assumption,” Hamilton added when prompted to expand.

“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.

“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.”

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Hamilton backed down in previous clashes with Verstappen
If these words sound familiar, that’s because they are. Hamilton said much the same earlier in the season.

Four months ago, in fact, on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix. A few days earlier Hamilton had swerved to avoid another of Verstappen’s uncompromising, back-off-or-we-crash first-corner moves in Spain. A few weeks before, that much the same happened at Imola.

The collisions of Silverstone and Monza lay ahead, so Hamilton’s words in Monaco make telling re-reading with the knowledge of what happened next.

“I think I’ve done well to avoid all the incidents so far,” he said. “We’ve got 19 more [races] to go and we could connect, hopefully not.

“The good thing, I think, there is a nice, balanced amount of respect between us. I think perhaps, as you know, he feels perhaps he has a lot to prove. I’m not necessarily in the same boat there.”

Hamilton’s argument is logical enough: There is no substitute for experience and when it comes to fighting for world championships none have more experience than he does. Verstappen, naturally, isn’t going to concede this and sure enough he didn’t when RaceFans put it to him in August.

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“The only advantage you can really have, I think, is if you have a faster car,” said the Red Bull driver. “In this sport it’s so dominant when you have a good car, there’s so many good drivers in the sport, but they don’t have the opportunity to fight at the front.

Verstappen’s penalty gives Hamilton a huge opportunity
“So if you have seven titles or one or zero I think at the end of the day when you spend a few years in F1, especially more towards the front, like top five, you know that you have to try and finish every race, you know that you have to score the most available points every single weekend.

“All of us, we always try to do our best and race in the best possible way. So I don’t really see the advantage there.”

So much for the theory, what about the practice? Is Verstappen buckling under the pressure of his first title fight? There’s little evidence to suggest he is.

Look at how he bore the gigantic weight of expectation at his home race. On a day when his team mate was nowhere, Verstappen single-handedly saw off the combined efforts of both Mercedes drivers without putting a wheel wrong. It was an impeccable drive.

Prior to their Monza collision, which of the two title contenders looked more under pressure that weekend? Verstappen, who was running ahead of his key rival until a slow pit stop spoiled his afternoon? Or Hamilton, who was out-qualified by his team mate, lost three places when the Saturday race began, and after gaining one place at the start of the grand prix lost it at the second chicane?

Small wonder Verstappen’s response to Hamilton’s latest remark about his capability under pressure dripped with sarcasm. “I’m so nervous I can barely sleep,” he scoffed. “It’s so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it.”

No doubt 2007-specification, GP2-fresh Hamilton was underprepared for the task of taking on a double world champion in his own team plus the might of Ferrari during one of the most toxic seasons in memory. But if the Hamilton of today presumes he is up against a callow rookie who is buckling under pressure he has badly misjudged his championship rival. Verstappen may only be one year older than Hamilton was in that 2007 season, but he starts his 134th grand prix this weekend.

As a result of his error at Monza, Verstappen goes into this weekend with a three-place grid penalty. Hamilton knows he should therefore start ahead of his title rival. Hamilton known he should therefore finish ahead of his title rival. And Hamilton knows he should therefore be back in the lead of the championship by Sunday evening.

How’s that for pressure? Let’s see if he can make that experience count.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “Hamilton’s take on Verstappen is as flawed now as it was four months ago”

  1. I think this article is spot on!

  2. It’s just the usual trolling anyway. Right or wrong, doesn’t matter. Just trying to rattle the opponent’s cage. As per usual.

    Reply moderated
  3. I’m not sure how you can draw the conclusion that Hamilton “presumes he is up against a callow rookie who is buckling under pressure” from his comments. What he has actually said makes a lot of sense. It may not be right, Verstappen may not be feeling any pressure at all (only he actually knows that), but there’s plenty of logic behind the concept. In fact, you’ve even said that. Which makes the “callow rookie” line strange.

    1. Absolutely.
      The entire article is premised on Verstappen’s reaction to something that Hamilton didn’t actually say. Hamilton was very clear he was talking about his own experience:
      “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.”

      Note also the remarks were in response to being pressed on the matter by journalists. They seem pretty unexceptional to me.
      Keith’s article seems more provocative than anything Hamilton said.

    2. @oweng Keith doesn’t draw that conclusion. He says “if the Hamilton of today presumes…” The operative word being “if.”

      Nigel The article is premised on things LH said about Max 4 months ago and compared to now, not on Max’s reaction to anything, as you are suggesting. I think LH is the one being provocative (not in a nasty way though) and Keith is just highlighting that. LH is implying Max has to be feeling the pressure when he says he ’empathizes with that.’ Or ‘he feels perhaps he has a lot to prove. I’m not necessarily in the same boat there.’

      As well you have omitted the more provocative part of LH’s remark ahead of “I’m not going to make any assumptions,” where he first says “Obviously he won’t admit to it…” LH sure seems convinced Max must be feeling pressure, because he himself did.

      Bottom line of the article really is to highlight that it certainly doesn’t appear like Max is feeling pressure, or certainly nothing that needs draw empathy. It appears to me like Max is mostly just happy to finally have a car with which to compete for wins and the Championship. For him, having that has removed some of the pressure.

  4. Great article Keith! To be fair to Lewis, I don’t think he is buying that. I see it as part of the psychological warfare he is playing. He seems to have picked it up from his battles with Nico who in turn got it from The Michael.

    What I’m going to say has a huge caveat in SO FAR. But going into the season, I thought Max would be nervous and make more mistakes while Lewis would be his usual calm self. But that is not what we’re seeing. If anyone is making mistakes in this title fight, it’s Lewis. Frankly, Lewis is very lucky to still be in the fight, given how the season has gone.

    My impression is that the fight is much more personal for Lewis, this is the first time he is in a championship fight with someone who might actually be a better driver than he is (you could argue the same for 2007 but Lewis is in a completely different situation, he is a living legend within the sport now, the expectations are very different). He knows very well what he is up against. Max has matured a lot and I would he has a very different mentality. He just wants to race and doesn’t really care who is up against him, tries to do his best in every session and lets the championship take care of itself. Lewis’ approach seems to be a lot more calculated.

    In any case, I think we’re in for a wild ride until the end of the season.

    1. Great comment.

      This is a big test for Lewis – beating Bottas earned him titles but not much respect. Not to say he did not respect in certain races or circumstances but he has not really had to fight for a Championship in years and show his mettle.under pressure.

    2. This is how I read the season as well if you ignore the teams PR machines & bosses and media.
      And on the get togethers I feel Lewis might have mis-timed a bit in both moments as it was clear that on both occasions two cars could have easily made those corners. Imho he twice decided it to become a get together which doesn’t come across as him feeling very confident in his battles vs Max. Nevertheless he will get the end result he wants as too much damage is done to the RB team mid season. Add the Pirelli changes and it is pretty much a done deal.

  5. Had Max not crashed (comfortably leading) in Baku and had Lewis crashed out as well in Silverstone and had Bottas not ruined Max’s race in Hungary the title fight could have been reduced to a mathematical chance for Lewis… How’s THAT for pressure?

    I think Max is not you typical 24 year old F1 driver.. 137 starts, fights with Ricciardo, Vettel Hamilton and Bottas, race wins, crashes, penalties, retirements…. He has seen it all and tries to win every GP or maximise points when he cannot win. The car should be good enough to do it… The main obstacle is not even Hamilton.. it’s the penalties resulting from the crashes with Hamilton and Bottas…

    1. That is ridiculous statement, if x didn’t happen and y didn’t happen the championship would’ve been this. It’s irrelevant, we are where we are. Rosberg won 2016 by winning less races, doesn’t mean by a long shot that he’s a better driver than Hamilton.

      Hamilton merely raised the bar and Verstappen, along with his own talent, is a result of it along with Norris, Russell and the other exciting talent.

      The only comment in the report I do agree with is the other drivers having equal opportunity to fight for wins, when you’re in that position it will add pressure irrespective of age and experience because the team at large will have a high expectation.

  6. I mean, no offence… but the main reason the title fight is as close as it is at this stage, is because Verstappen was punted out of the race/contention in Silverstone and Hungary by either of the Mercedes drivers.

    Up until Spain Hamilton/Mercedes and Max/Red Bull were (about) on equal footing; but in Monaco the group from Milton Keynes really hit their stride and began to edge ahead.

    1. Max is in contention because he has had the faster car, he was not punted out of Silverstone, he also still lacks judgement.

      Reply moderated
  7. Ridiculous take.

    Hamilton literally stated that he was not making assumptions, and he did not do so. He merely stated his personal experiences.

    Of course Verstappen is feeling the pressure, he’s not a robot!

    Where on earth did the word “callow” come from? Who has used it in relation to Verstappen? Or are you just making stuff up? That’s very dull.

    1. Man says fish and journalist says chicken happens all the time, nothing new there.

    2. “Callow” means “conducting oneself in a way that conveys inexperience”. Driving with a “you make space or we crash” is, nowadays, an attitude associated with inexperience. “Callow” is therefore an accurate observation, whether Lewis intended that or not – and it is easy to interpret Lewis’ words as communicating a belief that Max is conducting himself in a way that conveys inexperience.

      There was a time when journalists were allowed to pay attention to what was happening around them, and not obliged to limit themselves to quoting others.

  8. I’m so sick of this take from the media and was hoping this site would rise above it.

    It’s so clear Hamilton wasn’t saying that’s what he thought of Verstappen, but just drawing from his own experience about what Max *could* be experience. He literally says he’s not making any assumptions and talks about his own experience and media just keeps reporting as if he said as an insult.

    Quite disgusting frankly.

    1. @skipgamer But you’re being disingenuous to conveniently ignore that LH is actually saying more than just what he thinks Max ‘could’ be experiencing, when he says he ’empathizes with that,’ or ‘he feels perhaps he has a lot to prove. I’m not in the same boat there,’ and ‘obviously he won’t admit to it.’

      LH isn’t being all that malicious, but he certainly isn’t just drawing from his own experience when he is projecting what Max ‘must’ (my word) be feeling, for after all, that is what he (LH) felt. It would be different if LH said things such as ‘here’s what my experience was, and I wonder if Max is feeling the same.’ But rather he (LH) seems to have decided, or at least chosen the tack he has when the media asks, to make it sound like this is what Max is indeed going through.

  9. Lewis might well be an entitled ass in the car, a bit of a loud-mouth at times and be an irritating, celebrity personality…but I don’t think for one moment that he would underestimate his competition.

  10. This article, and the fake-story that prompted it, is utterly absurd. Listen to what Hamilton actually said before writing false/misleading articles.

  11. Verstappen’s desperation to win this title is evident every single time they go wheel to wheel. Nobody has this level of “let me through or we crash” mentality unless they desperately want something. This site is just feeding into the Great White Hope narrative like most F1 media because it sells.

    Poor take.

    1. I put this as a separate comment, but I should have put it here. Verstappen always had this “back-off-or-we-crash” attitude throughout his career. It’s not a attitude that I am fond of, but you can’t put it down to lack of experience or title pressure, or despair as you put it. He knows exactly what he is doing, and he knows exactly what space he puts his car in. It’s just the way he drives.

  12. Verstappen always had this “back-off-or-we-crash” attitude throughout his career. It’s not a attitude that I am fond of, but you can’t put it down to lack of experience or title pressure. He knows exactly what he is doing, and he knows exactly what space he puts his car in. It’s just the way he drives.

    1. Takes two to tango.

  13. It seems Lewis is really scared of Max, he keeps talking of pressure on Max when Lewis is the one making all the mistakes. Max has made Lewis come out of his comfort zone and we can see that in Lewis, he seems always out of breath not comfortable at all. I am not trying to depreciate Lewis here, I just think Lewis doesn’t enjoy this battle and we can see from his body language.

    Reply moderated
  14. Hamilton will make these jabs at Verstappen in the assured knowledge that the British media will deliver them, and yesterday it didn’t take more than minutes before they obliged.

    Verstappen is not really playing the game, but he should, as the reason Hamilton is thinking these mind games work is of course that he’s affected by it himself. Verstappen should say something like all the mistakes Hamilton has been making shows the age or pressure is getting to him, and then if he’s lucky, one of the Dutch press will deliver the prod to Hamilton.

    1. He did… He put it out there that “there are a lot of hypocrite people in the world”..

      That was a definite ” shots fired”!

      1. @w0o0dy No that was in response. Like all the Hamilton jabs to which the British press wants Verstappen to ‘respond to’ (rile up), he should make some of his own.

    2. @balue Lol even an article berating Hamilton on not being in touch sets off you verstappen hooligans

      1. @f1osaurus Anything not glorifying Hamilton sets you off to attack the posters as usual. It’s as primitive as it gets, but all you got it seems.

        1. @balue You are the one crying though.

          1. I always suspected you were a pre-teen, but that comment confirms it

  15. This is a pretty poor, inflammatory interpretation of what Lewis has said, much as yesterday’s article was a pretty poor, inflammatory interpretation of what Max had said.

    Even to the casual observer it’s plain to see it’s neither Max nor Lewis to blame for all the nasty vitriol bubbling under the surface of this title fight – it’s absolutely the media who are having a field day trying to carve out a rift between two guys who, while they are racing extremely hard this season, obviously have no loss of respect for one another.

    There should be enough to talk about this season without these kinds of nothing quotes being inflated up into the most scathing headline they could possibly be tangentially related to. -1.

    I am sure I’m not the only person who gravitated to this very outlet to get away from the ridiculous reactionary takes that are becoming the norm on internet platforms.

  16. Unfortunately Verstappen is coming across as a callow rookie in how he handles the crashes and his driving in general when he is near Lewis. The over-focus on a title rival may have been de rigeur in the 1980s and 1990s (Senna/Prost and Hill/Schumacher illustrate as much), but by the time Lewis was a rookie in 2007 it was no longer expected, and now it looks outright dated. Experienced racers (and even some sophomore drivers) simply do not make that mistake any more.

    Hamilton’s take looks quite reasonable given the on-track evidence, and it’s not the sort of allegation that would be straightforward to deny in words even if Max were the type to attempt it. The only answer would be for Max to drive better – something he needs to do because he is in great danger of losing this championship if he continues to drive like this.

    1. Verstappen if he wasn’t punted off in Silverstone and didn’t have a tyre blowout in Baku would be down the road in the championship.

      1. Verstappen, who if he hadnt screwed up Luffield under no pressure and got dummied so easily down the old pit straight would have been untouchable though Copse. But he did. If Max hadnt got lucky when he was supposed to be acting as a safety car at Imola when he speared himself off the track, he would have lost so many points. But he got lucky.

        If Max takes an engine penalty his penalty from Imola will be negated. Does that mean those who whinged about Hams Silverstone lenient penalty will be whinging about Max’s non penalty? Not a chance.

    2. @alianora-la-canta Except that Max has been the one driving better than LH. And like a WDC level driver.

      1. @robbie Sadly the evidence for that has been lacking.

        1. WDC-level drivers haven’t done “my way or the highway” towards their rivals for over 20 years. They also haven’t mode-lock into title rivals for over 20 years, because a WDC-level driver keeps the wider environment and the bigger picture in mind when they drive. Lewis has remembered these things, Max hasn’t, and that’s why Lewis is leading the title fight.

  17. Hamilton is used to others backing off for him and his drifting into them overtaking style its called slamming the door.
    not one incident with Virstapan did he even think of the other driver its Hamilton that is desperate, just like he was with Roseberg, just like Schumacher was with Hill, Senna was with Prost. Tis called mind games you can only play them for so long before your luck runs out.

    Reply moderated
  18. Were you asleep during the whole of 2016? It was exactly the same. Hamilton playing the mind games, with the British press doing the heavy work for him. Rosberg focused on himself, got a bit lucky and made the most of it.

  19. Bit of a non-story this

  20. So much for the theory, what about the practice? Is Verstappen buckling under the pressure of his first title fight? There’s little evidence to suggest he is.

    It’s more that he suffers from red mist. He sits in his car swearing about a failed pitstop, being wronged in F3 previously by Ocon, feeling that Stroll should let him past instead of going for another fast lap, or whatever upsets him and then loses perspective on risk and reward.

  21. In no way did Hamilton say anyone is a “buckling.” He’s describing the pressure that anyone feels leading the hopes of a large organization and talking about his own experience. I swear if Hamilton said he doesn’t rate strawberry ice cream (vegan, oatmilk based) there would be blazing hot takes on that too.

  22. To be honest both the Silverstone incident and the monza incident were the result of Hamilton desperetaly forcing the issue. Clearly a result of feeling the pressure. Understeering in to Verstappen in Silverstone. And desperately unwilling to accept that Verstappen was coming passed in T1 at monza. Deciding to force Verstappen off the track.
    Unfortunately for Lewis, Verstappen doesn’t give way like Rosberg did over and over again.

    1. ..and you could easily add all his huge mistakes to that. It’s more than obvious Hamilton is feeling the pressure, so it’s the usual hypocrisy from him.

  23. A bit surprised by this article. Not really Keith’s style I would say…

    With regards to the comments, it would be inhuman not to feel the pressure whether you’re name is Max or Lewis. The one wants desperately to win the record 8th championship and the other wants desperately to proof he’s the better driver. And don’t forget the teams. Redbull wanted to make Max the youngest champion. Redbull also said Manu times that they don’t have any excuses of they don’t win eitjes of the chpionships.
    The fact that Max is stressing that he barely feels anything while he can be the one to displace the most succesful driver F1 has seen is pretty much the evidence that Max has the best pokerface of all times. Of course he feels the pressure as does Lewis.

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