Max Verstappen on being ‘called out’ in England for perceived Lewis Hamilton criticism

Mark Scott
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collide. Brazil, November 2022.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, come together. Brazil, November 2022.

Max Verstappen has said he is overly cautious when discussing his racing battles with Lewis Hamilton “because in England this can very quickly be received as criticism.”

Verstappen’s rivalry with Hamilton was truly crystallised during the F1 2021 season when both were at the heart of a bitter battle over the Drivers’ Championship, which went down to the very final lap in Abu Dhabi under very controversial circumstances.

And, even when Mercedes were firmly out of title contention with their troublesome W13 car in 2022, Verstappen and Hamilton still could not be kept away from each other.

At Interlagos during the São Paulo Grand Prix, Verstappen and Hamilton once again made contact going through the Senna Esses – an incident which the Red Bull driver was penalised for by the FIA race stewards.

During an interview with Autosport, Verstappen said he is more careful with his words when it comes to discussing the topic of Hamilton as comments not intended as criticism are interpreted as such, which only adds to what is already a very toxic online environment.

“In England this can very quickly be received as criticism,” Verstappen said. “And then I’m being called out on it.

“I always respect Lewis a lot for what he has achieved in the sport, but that’s why I don’t really understand why we cannot really race like I’ve been doing with the others.

“Of course, everyone is different in their approach. I know that Charles is a bit different to George, or to Carlos [Sainz] or to Checo [Perez], or whoever.

“I do have to be a little bit more careful with that because immediately it’s really taken as criticism. And then people start to hate on you. Well, that’s not my intention.”

As for the continued collisions with Hamilton, Verstappen is at a loss to explain why they keep happening between him and the Mercedes driver.

“Well, I have to be careful what I’m saying here, but with everyone I’ve been fighting this year, it’s been really hard, aggressive battles and we never really came together,” he analysed.

“Somehow, with Lewis it’s a different story. And I honestly don’t understand.

“Like, this year, ok we haven’t really had a lot of battles. But Brazil we got together and it was not my intention. I got the blame for it, which I didn’t find fair.

“If it would’ve been more of a racing incident that I could live with.

“But I don’t understand. Maybe it’s just a generation thing, that we understand each other better, we are racing nicer to each other. I don’t get it.”

Mercedes will be hoping there are plenty more battles with Verstappen to come in F1 2023 as that will surely mean Hamilton, and George Russell for that matter, have a car that is at least capable of taking regular race wins again.

Wolff, though, is keeping his glass half-empty when it comes to predicting a 2023 title charge, but did promise the W14 would be “full of surprises” this year.

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