Before 2021: What Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen said before F1 relationship turned sour

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in conversation after qualifying at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in conversation after qualifying at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will forever be linked by their titanic battle for the F1 World Championship in 2021.

But what did they think of each other before their on-track relationship turned sour? We’ve collected the best quotes from both drivers to understand how the mutual respect between them gradually turned into a bitter rivalry…

Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen: The origins of a great F1 rivalry in quotes

Hamilton: “I’ve only just realised I’m the oldest driver here, the first time. I’ve kind of only just realised it. Jeez. You were born in ’97?”

Verstappen: “Yup.”

Hamilton: “Jeez. I signed my first contract with McLaren in ’97. Bloody ‘ell. I don’t really have any words of wisdom for you.”

The first meeting. Hamilton was asked in the FIA press conference at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix if he had any advice to offer Verstappen, about to become the youngest-ever driver to start an F1 race (2015)

“I am Max Verstappen, but if I am forced to answer the question I am more the Lewis type of driver. However, that does not mean that Nico isn’t a very quick driver…”

Verstappen when invited to compare himself to Mercedes’ 2016 title contenders

“Absolutely! A racing driver needs to have this confidence. Inside me I really believe I can beat him.”

Verstappen when asked if he believed he could beat Hamilton in equal machinery (2016)

“Even though the facts point to Nico winning the title, I will say that Lewis is extremely fast and a great fighter who will never give up. I think it will be a very exciting battle until the last race.”

Verstappen’s assessment of the 2016 title battle as Rosberg closed in on the Championship

“Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. They are simply the best drivers at the moment.”

Verstappen names the best drivers on the grid at the tail end of 2016

“Max drove a fantastic race and is continuing to show he’s a force to be reckoned with.”

Hamilton after Verstappen claimed consecutive podiums for the first time in his career at the 2016 British Grand Prix

“He can be a title contender. His abilities at the core are fantastic and we’ve all seen that come to light with the great car he’s racing in and the great team he’s racing in.”

Hamilton on Verstappen’s potential after a strong end to the 2017 season

“Such a d***head.”

Hamilton caught on camera criticising Verstappen in the cooldown room after a close call at the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

“I had a coming together with Max and it was an unnecessary collision. There needs to be a certain respect between drivers. It didn’t feel like a respectful manoeuvre – and it was a silly manoeuvre for himself because he didn’t finish the race. Obviously, he has made a few mistakes recently.”

Hamilton on the same Bahrain 2018 incident when speaking to the media

“In my opinion there was plenty of room for the both of us to go around that corner and to say ‘no action taken’ by the stewards is a bit harsh. If it was the other way around, I’m sure he would want it looked into.”

Verstappen’s version of events on that Bahrain skirmish

“His car!”

Verstappen when asked what makes Hamilton so good after the Mercedes driver clinched his fifth title at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix

“Of course he is extremely good. But Vettel could win with his car; Ricciardo could win with his car; I could win with his car.”

Verstappen expands on his previous answer at Mexico 2018

“I wasn’t surprised by it or anything like that. I saw them racing but they weren’t racing for the same position. In my mind, I would have been in a different frame of mind. Fortunately he was able to keep going, no one got hurt, and they kept going, it’s a racing incident I guess. Max is that go-getter guy and every now and then it bites you. But I’m really, really proud; I don’t care about anyone else.”

Hamilton had little sympathy for Verstappen in the post-race press conference at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix after a collision with Esteban Ocon’s lapped Racing Point saw the lead change hands

Hamilton: “But he is allowed to unlap himself.”

Verstappen: “Yeah, yeah, I know. But you can’t crash into the leader who’s not doing anything crazy.”

Hamilton: “You had more to lose than he did. He had nothing to lose and you had it all.”

Hamilton and Verstappen debate Ocongate face to face

“Ultimately when you’re in Ocon’s position you’ve got nothing to lose. You want to get through. You’ve got much quicker tyres. You’re trapped if you’ve got much quicker tyres and the guy in front is not pushing flat out, which Max wasn’t, he was saving his tyres. So he’s cruising, holding him up. You’re going to go for it try and get by and move yourself forwards. And I felt like it was fair game for him to try to unlap himself. Of course you don’t want to cause an incident. But in those scenarios you give each other space. It’s as simple as that. It’s so simple to give each other space. You can never assume that the person is not up your inside because he’s a backmarker and he’s going to back off. You’ve got to assume, you’ve got to acknowledge the fact that he may be there so I’m going to leave extra space. Because actually he’s in a different race to me. That’s my opinion about it. So from my seat it felt like it wasn’t 100 per cent one side. More like maybe it’s 60-40.”

More from Hamilton on Verstappen’s collision with Ocon

“Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there. He is not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God.”

Verstappen ahead of the 2020 season

“I find it funny. I have always been known to do my talking on the track, so I tend to see that as a sign of weakness.”

Hamilton hits back at Verstappen’s suggestion that his success is down to the car (2020)

“I’m not frustrated about Lewis in a Mercedes car. To be honest, 90 per cent of the field could win in that car. Nothing against Lewis – he’s a great driver – but the car is so dominant. Okay, maybe others wouldn’t be as dominant as Lewis is, but you accept the situation you are in and you just try to make the best of it. I’m not frustrated, I’m more focused on what can we do to try and beat them.”

Verstappen dismisses claims that he is frustrated by the scale of Hamilton and Mercedes’ dominance (2020)

“I got torpedoed. I thought at some point I would get torpedoed by Max.”

Hamilton delivers his verdict after making contact with Verstappen at the start of the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix

“I think every driver is slightly different, Some are smarter. Some are very smart, aggressive and some are silly with it. Through those experiences of racing with people, you give some more space. And others you don’t have to, they’re quite respectful. It’s very likely you’re going to come together with Max if you don’t give him extra space. So most of the time you do.”

More from Hamilton after dropping the ‘torpedo’ bomb at Mexico 2019

“It was a silly comment to make. I don’t need to dig into other people in a press conference because it is disrespectful and I prefer to fight on track. It only shows that I am in their heads and I guess that is a good thing. I am a hard racer, but fair, and it is just not correct [what Hamilton said]. I like to fight hard but on the edge.”

Verstappen responds to Hamilton’s ‘torpedo’ dig a week later in Austin (2019) recommends

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“Lewis was ready in his first year already, just because he had a really good car. But now he also has less pressure. He has a very good car and his team-mate is not there anyway. When the whole team is all about you, it’s a lot easier. And the better your car is, the easier it is again.”

Verstappen claims Hamilton has an easy life at Mercedes with a good car, a team built around him and no threat from team-mate Valtteri Bottas (2018)

“I think the team’s pretty happy with Valtteri and me. So I do know Max is definitely interested in opportunities. I don’t know, maybe. If there is, then great. I don’t mind driving with you. I’ll drive against whoever.”

Hamilton on the prospect of Verstappen becoming his team-mate at Mercedes at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix

“I’m not purely focused on Lewis. There are other great drivers in the paddock who can achieve similar things.”

Verstappen on being wary of focusing all his energies on getting the better of Hamilton (2019)

“It’s car-dependent. I don’t think he’s had the pressure of a team-mate over the years. He should really have won it in 2016 as well if it wasn’t for engine failure, but after the summer break there were a few poor starts and stuff where he lost first place. But he never really had big pressure from his team-mates.”

More from Verstappen on Hamilton’s easy life at Mercedes (2019)

“We were all lining up to do our lap to get to the last corner. I had Daniil in front of me and we were all just slowing down to make space. Then Lewis just drove by like nobody was there and didn’t care. I was like: ‘Well if you don’t care, I don’t care.’”

Verstappen after narrowly avoiding a collision with Hamilton and Daniil Kvyat in qualifying at the 2019 United States Grand Prix

“If you looked at Brazil [2019], we just raced hard and very cleanly. From my side, I know I race hard but it is because I always want to try to get the best result out of it, and I have always done so. But when you fight for a title it is a different mentality. We were not in that fight so you know you have a few races when you can possibly win so you try everything to win that. It is a different mindset you have to be in and Lewis has been really good at that to judge when you have to go all out, when you have to be more conservative. So it depends a bit on the situation you’re in.”

Verstappen admits a change in approach is required when a title is on the line (2020)

“It’s good for the sport to have the young guys coming up and hopefully taking over, because it’s getting a bit boring seeing Lewis win; we have to try and change that with all the young guys!”

Verstappen welcomes the emergence of Charles Leclerc at Ferrari (2019)

“Lewis is getting older; he’s [almost] 35 now, so will stop at one point. But it’s just going to depend on the team, to be honest. It’s not going to depend on Lewis. Because if Mercedes keeps building really dominant cars, then for sure he’s going to win. So we have to just make sure as a team that we can beat them. In Formula 1, you’re very dependent on your car.”

Verstappen admits he’s reliant on Red Bull to help him end the Hamilton/Mercedes era (2019)

“If I find myself in the same car as Lewis Hamilton or Charles Leclerc, I feel that I would be two tenths faster.”

Verstappen puts a number on the pace advantage he perceives he holds over his main rivals (2019)

“Lewis is an amazing driver, but he has also had the best car. Over the years, Lewis hasn’t had the strongest team-mates. If you have the right car you can beat everyone.”

Verstappen once again pushing the best car/weak team-mate argument (2019)

“Max is just sitting there waiting to take it. So I’ve got to raise the game another level in order to stay ahead of him.”

Hamilton wary of the ever-growing threat posed by Verstappen (2017)

“I heard it. I hope he has to. At the moment he is the world champion, I’m still not in that position and I hope I can be next year.”

Verstappen responds to Hamilton’s admission that he needs to keep raising his game to stay in front (2017)

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