Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have always had a tense relationship. Now, it seems that the tension has increased to the point of booing each other on track.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have a long history of being competitive. In the past, they would often engage in gamesmanship to try and get ahead of each other. This dynamic has changed recently, with Verstappen starting to boo Hamilton on track.
HUNGARY’S BUDAPEST — The rivalry between Mercedes and Red Bull for the championship shows no signs of abating.
The rivalry between F1’s top two teams spilled over to the grandstands in the first competitive session since Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crashed at Silverstone, with boos booming out across the pit straight as Hamilton finished TV interviews after earning pole position at the Hungaroring.
The seven-time world champion shrugged off the jeers, saying they would only serve as motivation to turn pole into victory on Sunday. However, he took issue with suggestions that he intentionally held up the Red Bulls ahead of their final qualifying laps to prevent his title rival from completing a clean final lap.
The Mercedes and Red Bulls lined up one after the other as they exited the pits ahead of the last qualifying effort in Q3. Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes colleague who will start the race from second on the grid, headed the four-car group, with Hamilton second, Verstappen third, and Perez fourth.
Hamilton and Bottas went into their outlap knowing that their initial efforts were quicker than the two Red Bulls’, ensuring that they would start on the front row if no one improved. At the Hungaroring, clear air is essential for a fast lap, and when Bottas began his lap, he made room for the vehicle ahead of him. This in turn bolstered Hamilton, who in turn bolstered Verstappen, who in turn bolstered Perez.
The four cars raced out of the final turn one by one, but Perez was timed out and lost out on beginning his final lap as the session clock ran down. The rumor was that the two Mercedes cars were attempting to prevent the Red Bulls from crossing the line in time for their lap, which may explain part of the boos.
Prior to their last qualifying effort, Lewis Hamilton backed up Max Verstappen. Getty Images/Peter Fox
After the practice, Red Bull CEO Christian Horner remarked, “It’s a little of gamesmanship.” “Lewis has a great lap in the bank, and then he’s just backing things up, clearly not wanting to give our cars a clean run.”
“But he has the right to do so, and he has the track position, so we don’t have a big problem. Now it’s all about the future.”
Mercedes subsequently reported that Hamilton’s outlap was the third quickest of his five in qualifying, indicating that it was around average for the cars behind him. When the allegation was made to Hamilton that he was playing games, he firmly rejected it.
On the issue, Hamilton remarked, “I mean, it’s so stupid dude.” “Did you not notice how slow everyone else was going?” I’m not sure what you’re talking about.
“Do you think I could have gotten closer to Valtteri if I had gone faster?”
“Everyone was taking a leisurely out-lap,” says the narrator. It wasn’t much different than any previous lap.
“Of course, we try to prepare the tyres and keep them cooler each time we go out since they become so hot throughout the lap.”
“I wasn’t using any strategies.” Man, I don’t need to play any strategies. We don’t need to add strategies because I know what I’m doing in the vehicle and it’s quick enough.
“Those making the remarks obviously have no idea what we’re doing here, which is presumably why they’re not driving here.”
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team manager, stated that the events of the previous two days, in which Red Bull attempted and failed to get Hamilton’s punishment for the Silverstone accident raised in severity, indicated that Red Bull was risking further negative PR by pressing the matter.
“I believe they realize that if they made a big deal out of it, it would have resulted in another PR disaster,” Wolff added.
Is Verstappen feeling the strain?
Verstappen, who will start third behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas on the grid, has not been shy in expressing his thoughts on the Silverstone collision in the previous week, but he called for an end to queries about the incident in Hungary.
Naturally, F1 fans are curious to see what happens if Hamilton and Verstappen wind up racing side by side again, but when questioned about it on Sunday, he cut off a question from press conference presenter Tom Clarkson on the topic.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about what occurred on the first lap at Silverstone,” Clarkson remarked, “but if you two end up wheel to wheel after the start tomorrow…”
Verstappen groaned, shook his head, and intervened at this moment.
“Can we just put an end to this? Because I’ve had a lot of f———questions about it, “In response, Verstappen said.
“It’s just absurd. We’ve spent the whole Thursday addressing this dumb s—-, so could we just just stop? We’re racers, so we’ll compete aggressively but fairly. We simply keep putting pressure on each other.”
“What do you want me to say?” Verstappen was asked about the boos, which came from supporters clad in the orange of his native nation. Of course, this isn’t true, but as drivers, we shouldn’t be bothered by such things.
“You should simply concentrate on what you need to do in the vehicle, which is to deliver.” Fortunately, we all wear helmets, so we don’t hear anything while we’re driving. That is where we vary from other sports, therefore we are perhaps fortunate in that regard.
“But, as I already said, it is not pleasant, and it should have no bearing on any of us. We’re all professionals who know exactly what we need to accomplish.”
Mercedes has the upper hand?
After Red Bull dominated F1’s double header in Austria in June and July, it seemed like Verstappen would win the title this year. Nonetheless, the events of Silverstone and qualifying in Hungary indicate that Mercedes and Hamilton are not about to give up.
Mercedes not only has the benefit of securing the first row of the grid for Sunday’s race, but it also has both of its cars starting on the more durable medium compound tyres, as opposed to Verstappen’s softs. Mercedes should have more strategy choices throughout the race, but Bottas may be attacked by Verstappen into Turn 1 if the Red Bull gets a quicker start on its stickier tyres.
That’s not to suggest Verstappen can’t win from third on the grid, but after qualifying, the chances are heavily stacked in Mercedes’ favor. If Hamilton wins the race and Verstappen finishes third, Hamilton will reclaim the championship lead going into Formula One’s three-week summer vacation.
- dilara sanlik