Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s war of words escalated ahead of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, with the Mercedes driver telling his rival he would not change one thing about their 180mph crash at Silverstone.
Eleven days on from the accident which has lit the blue touch paper on this season’s Formula One fight, Hamilton – despite being deemed “predominantly at fault” by the stewards – insisted he had no regrets, and knocked back Verstappen’s suggestion that his victory celebrations in front of 140,000 partisan British fans were “disrespectful”.
Verstappen first made the claim from his hospital bed in Coventry in the hours after Hamilton’s controversial win, and here in Hungary – speaking for the first time since the crash at Copse corner which registered at an extraordinary 51G – then took aim at Hamilton and Mercedes’ integrity by claiming their exuberant celebrations “show what they are really like”.
But Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by just eight points, said: “I would do the move exactly the way I did it last time.“In terms of how I reviewed it, analysed it, and with all my experience – and over the years I have been through a lot – I wouldn’t change it.“I don’t believe our behaviour was disrespectful. I really was not aware that he was in hospital.
“I saw on the screen that he had got out of the car. It is one thing knowing and celebrating what happened, and it is another thing not knowing and celebrating. Obviously, I wasn’t aware.“It was my home grand prix and we worked incredibly hard for God knows how long to get a result like that. It was a monumental moment for us to experience with the home crowd being there for the first time in two years.
“Emotions were running high and it wasn’t an intentional celebration, it was natural, and I am not going to hide how I feel.”Hamilton, 36, called Verstappen, 23, in the days after the crash in an attempt to clear the air.Hamilton added: “I wanted to check he was OK and let him know the respect was still there, but it doesn’t look as though that has been reciprocated.”Hamilton’s final remark came after he had been told of Verstappen’s fury at his celebrations.Moments earlier, the Red Bull driver said: “What I meant by disrespectful is that one guy is in hospital, and the other one is waving the flag around like nothing has happened after pushing the other guy into the wall at 51G.
“But it is not only that, it was the whole reaction of the team. That is not how you celebrate a win, especially a win in the way that they got it.“That is what I found really disrespectful and it shows how they really are, and it comes out in a pressure situation. I wouldn’t want to be seen like that.”Red Bull are furious with what they consider to be Hamilton’s “lenient” punishment, and have called on the British GP stewards to review the first-lap incident. They made their case via an evidence log – understood to be more than 20 pages – on Thursday afternoon, with the stewards now deliberating whether Hamilton’s 10-second penalty should be re-examined.Verstappen added: “I don’t think the penalty was correct, particularly when you take out your main rival.“With the speed we have, we are miles ahead of the third best team, 40, 50 seconds ahead in normal conditions, so a 10-second penalty doesn’t do anything. That penalty should definitely have been more severe.“From my side, I didn’t do anything wrong. I fought hard, I defended hard, but not aggressive because if it had been aggressive I would have squeezed him into the inside wall but gave him space.
“If you slam into the rear of my car, there is not much I can do. You can say I am an aggressive driver, but I don’t think I am. I am a hard driver, but I know how to position my car and I have not been involved in an accident by running into people. I have zero penalty points (Hamilton has four) and that says quite a bit.”