Lewis Hamilton hit out at his Formula One title rival Max Verstappen after the world champion won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, describing him as unwilling to obey the rules and his driving as over the limit. Hamilton took victory after an intense battle with Verstappen that saw the pair repeatedly clash on track as they vied for the lead.
It was an ill-tempered affair where both drivers traded accusations against one another across their team radio. Verstappen forced Hamilton off track to hold the lead but was ordered to give the place back to the Mercedes driver. In attempting to do so Hamilton was unaware of why Verstappen had slowed and hit the rear of his car, calking him “fucking crazy”.
Yet it was Verstappen’s repeatedly aggressive approach to defending, and driving Hamilton off the track that had really angered the world champion. “I’ve raced a lot of drivers in 28 years,” he said. “I’ve come across a lot of different characters and there’s a few at the top which are kind of over the limit. The rules kind of don’t apply, they don’t think of the rules.
“He’s over the limit, for sure. I’ve avoided collision on so many occasions with the guy and I don’t always mind being the one that does that, because you live to fight another day. Which I did.”
Hamilton’s win means the two drivers are now level on points going into the season finale at Abu Dhabi next weekend. However the pair will do so with no love lost after a chaotic race interrupted by stoppages, safety cars and repeated incidents that forced the stewards and race control to intervene. Hamilton noted, when asked, that he did believe Verstappen was driving dangerously enough to end his race and take him out of the title fight.
“I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case,” he said. “This isn’t the first time I have had to avoid collisions and that is how I felt in the moment.”
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, insisted Verstappen’s behaviour was beyond the pale. “The driving needs to be assessed and looked at. It’s hard, very hard, maybe over-the-line hard,” he said.
Verstappen, who took a penalty for his driving during the race and another following a stewards’ investigation, was aggrieved and dismissive of the criticism from his rivals.
“Emotions were running high at the time and it is what it is,” he said. “I don’t agree with the decisions but I don’t want to waste too much time on it because we don’t need to make headlines out of it. They [Mercedes] don’t deserve that.”