Max Verstappen has downplayed his shoulder bump against Lewis Hamilton at Imola, saying it was nothing more than an accident.
Hamilton claimed pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with Sergio Perez qualifying second and Verstappen, who lost to a team-mate in qualifying for the first time since 2018, P3.
Walking back to where he left his helmet after his post-qualifying interview, Verstappen crossed paths with Hamilton and the two bumped shoulders.
While the Dutchman walked on, Hamilton turned back to look at him.
Many, including Verstappen’s father Jos, wondered if it was a sign that tensions are beginning to boil between the two title protagonists.
Speaking to Ziggo Sport, he said: “If I look at the shoulder bump they gave each other after qualifying at Imola, I think we can expect something this year.
“They are obviously two men who do not want to be beaten by the other.
“Neither of them will let the other push them aside, especially if it will be more and more about the championship.”
Verstappen, though, says that’s reading too much into it, it was nothing more than an “accident”
Speaking to Dutch magazine Formule 1, he explained: “That was an accident.
“I thought I left enough room for him, but he was doing his suit up as I walked past him. There is absolutely nothing behind it.”
But while knocking into one another off the track isn’t part of the game, Verstappen concedes it could happen out on the track but he hopes it doesn’t.
The Dutchman and his title rival made contact at the start of the Imola crash with Hamilton losing a piece of his front wing.
Both drivers were able to continue with Verstappen saying after that he wasn’t aware that there had been contact.
As to whether fans can expect a collision or three before the title is decided, Verstappen said via RacingNews365: “Hopefully not. I think we both have a lot of respect for each other and we will race hard against each other. But I think that’s normal too.
“To be honest, I’m not so concerned with that. I always focus on myself and try to get the best out of myself. Of course it looks like it’s between Lewis and me at the moment, but it’s still a long season and a lot of things can happen.”
Colliding with Hamilton, or any other driver, is a mistake that Verstappen is intent on avoiding.
“Every race is different of course, but I think we know how to fight for the title,” he said. “As a team and myself.
“You have to try to score points every weekend, even if you don’t finish first. You can’t afford to make big mistakes, especially with the gap between the two teams being so small. I think this (avoiding mistakes) is the most important thing.”