Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s close-fought title race has meant an ever-more intriguing 2021 Formula One season, but the run-in to the championship being decided has been played out amid a continual off-track war of words from both Mercedes and Red Bull.
Team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner have frequently been in the headlines as a result of their complaints and counter-claims, while the pair bidding to be top of the driver standings after the next, final race of the season have also had plenty to say about each other.
After the latest Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, Hamilton labelled his Red Bull rival “f****** crazy” due to his braking antics when Verstappen was instructed to let the Mercedes man pass on Lap 37, a penalty that resulted from an earlier incident right from lights out.
Verstappen twice ran Hamilton wide when the Brit was trying to overtake, leading to the FIA ordering the Dutch driver to cede position; on the second occasion leading to the collision on the 37th lap, causing damage to Hamilton’s front wing and ultimately landing Verstappen a time penalty.
Now, Hamilton has implied that the on-track action mean that someone – presumably a thinly veiled dig at Verstappen – either doesn’t follow the rules or doesn’t think they should apply to him.
“I don’t think I’ve changed the way that I race,” he said, per Autosport. “I think we’re seeing multiple incidents this year where even with Brazil we’re supposed to do our racing on track in between the white lines and the rules haven’t been clear from the stewards, that those things have been allowed, so that’s continued.
“From my understanding, I know that I can’t overtake someone and go off track and then keep the position but I think that’s well known between all us drivers. But it doesn’t apply to one of us, I guess.
“It was clear that others around us were willing to take it to all sorts of levels in order to overtake, so I just tried to keep it on the track and stay out of trouble, which meant avoiding incidents if I could.”
Hamilton eventually triumphed on Sunday in Jeddah, leaving him level on points with Verstappen at the top of the drivers’ championship, with the thrilling prospect of the final race of the season to come in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
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