Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen gear up for title fight in Russia with verbal jabs

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen traded verbal blows at the Russian Grand Prix on Thursday, less than two weeks after a crash which knocked both of the Formula One title rivals out of the last race.

Seven-time champion Hamilton suggested Verstappen was feeling the pressure of fighting for what would be his first title.

"I remember what it was like fighting for my first championship, and obviously I'm fighting my 10th battle, something like that," the British driver said. "I remember what it was like and I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences that go with it. So I can empathise with that. I think what's important is that we just continue to race hard but fair."

Verstappen dismissed Hamilton's comments.

"I'm so nervous I can barely sleep. It's so horrible to fight for a title, I really hate it," he deadpanned. "Those comments, it just shows you that he doesn't really know me, which is fine. I also don't need to know him, how he is fully, but I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there in front."

The rivals collided halfway through the last race in Italy, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to claim a surprise win for McLaren. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff credited the protective "halo" device around Hamilton's cockpit with saving his life after Verstappen's car bounced over his head. Verstappen has a three-place grid penalty in Russia after he was blamed for the crash €" "Not ideal, but not the end of the world," he said.

Two days after the crash, Hamilton was partying at the Met Gala in New York. He credited yoga and acupuncture with helping him to recover from neck pain sustained in the crash and said in Russia he was feeling fine.

It was the second time the two drivers clashed this year after a similar incident at the British GP. On that occasion, Verstappen ended up in the hospital. Hamilton got a 10-second penalty but still went on to win the race.

Verstappen has a five-point lead over Hamilton in the championship with five races to go. He's managed to carve through the field before in Sochi after grid penalties, rocketing from 19th to fifth within the opening eight laps of the 2018 race.

Mercedes drivers have won all seven races at the Olympic Park circuit, with four wins for Hamilton.

Rain in Russia

Rain is forecast in Sochi for Saturday qualifying and the race on Sunday. It could shake up the action at a track where it's tough to overtake, perhaps helping Verstappen overcome his grid penalty.

"I'm looking forward to it because it looks a bit rainy for most of the weekend. So, who knows, maybe that can swing a few surprises as well," Verstappen said.

No one wants a repeat of last month's Belgian GP, when a downpour restricted the race to two laps behind the safety car, prompting anger from fans.

Leclerc at the back

Charles Leclerc will start at the back of the grid after Ferrari swapped out his engine for an upgraded power unit.

Ferrari said the new engine helps it develop next year's car and Leclerc got the swap first because a battery pack in his old unit was damaged in a crash at last month's Hungarian GP.

It's been a frustrating season for Leclerc. He last won in 2019 and has finished on the podium just once in the last 27 races. His best shot at a win was derailed when his car broke down before the start at his home race in Monaco after he'd qualified on pole.

No date has been set for Leclerc's teammate, Carlos Sainz, to get the upgrade. "That will be decided following an evaluation of the right compromise between competitiveness and the impact of the penalty," Ferrari said.

Contract renewals

It's the first race since four-time champion Sebastian Vettel renewed his contract with Aston Martin for 2022. "The spirit in the team is great, I like the guys," the German said on Thursday. "Morale in the team is high." Haas also confirmed on Thursday it will keep Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin for 2022.

There are relatively few driver switches next year. George Russell is replacing Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton's teammate at Mercedes, with Bottas going to Alfa Romeo and Alexander Albon moving into Russell's seat at Williams. Teams are keen to keep experienced drivers because there are wide-ranging rule changes affecting car design for next season.

Also See: Lewis Hamilton faces age gap challenge in demanding new George Russell era

Formula 1: Valtteri Bottas grabs pole for Italian GP Sprint after beating teammate Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen gets three-place grid penalty for Lewis Hamilton crash at Monza

Read more on Sports by Firstpost.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting