Lewis Hamilton refutes Max Verstappen claim: ‘I didn’t run him off the road’

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton behind Max Verstappen. Melbourne, Australia. April 2023.

Lewis Hamilton behind Max Verstappen. Melbourne, Australia. April 2023.

Lewis Hamilton has downplayed any drama between himself and Max Verstappen following an opening lap close encounter between the pair.

In a throwback to years gone by, Hamilton and Verstappen were battling for the same stretch of tarmac at the start of the race in Melbourne but unlike previous years, it did not end with any contact.

In the heat of the moment, Verstappen, who drove partially off the track, believed he had been pushed wide by Hamilton but it was not a point the Dutchman felt like continuing with after the race was over.

During the post-race press conference where Hamilton sat alongside Verstappen and Fernando Alonso, the seven-time World Champion stated his belief that it was fair racing.

“I thought it was pretty decent,” Hamilton said. “I mean, he braked early and I braked late and I was fully up the inside and I think we both left space for each other.

“I didn’t run him off the road and he didn’t turn in on me so we didn’t touch and that’s racing.”

It was Hamilton’s best result of the season so far with his P2 finish taking him up to P4 in the Drivers’ standings and he admitted it was not a performance he saw coming.

“[The] result was very unexpected,” he said. “Getting a second and a third in qualifying yesterday just really blew us all away and [was] a huge boost of energy throughout the team.

“So that meant today we had a shot at trying to at least overtake Max for a second and so we both got ahead, which was amazing to have a Mercedes one-two for a second.

“Obviously he came sailing by at one stage but a really entertaining race and had a really good battle with Fernando, which was awesome.”

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Hamilton was still not overly confident Mercedes has the second quickest car, noting that Alonso was speedier in the corners.

“I think Fernando was a little bit quicker this afternoon,” Hamilton said. “I think he was in my tow so I think we are probably slightly quicker on the straight and he was quicker through all the corners.

“We definitely have some performance to find. It definitely wasn’t easy keeping them at bay and keeping them out of the DRS zone.

“But it was really quite interesting just to see where we were lacking and where we were good and so there’s lots of positives to take from today.

“But we do naturally need to add on some performance. I mean, they’ve been ahead of us for two races but for us to somehow still finish ahead is pretty awesome. So I’ll definitely take it.”