Lewis Hamilton says F1 title rival Max Verstappen ‘not driving by the rules’

  • Pair repeatedly clashed as Mercedes man won Saudi Arabian GP
  • Hamilton says of Red Bull driver: ‘He’s over the limit, for sure’

Hamilton: Consensus on F1 overtaking rules “doesn’t apply to one of us”

Lewis Hamilton has suggested there is only one Formula 1 driver who doesn’t understand they cannot overtake off track, after the latest clashes between himself and Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton: Consensus on F1 overtaking rules "doesn't apply to one of us"
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Verstappen pushed Hamilton off the track during last month’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but FIA race director Michael Masi decided not to refer the matter to the stewards, the incident therefore not being investigated.

After the race, Mercedes feared the non-call would set a precedent by suggesting that henceforth they would be allowed to leave the track to gain or keep a position.

At Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen ran Hamilton wide at Turn 1 on two separate occasions to stay ahead of the Mercedes, with the FIA twice ordering him to give the position back.

The first time the order was reset on the grid after a red flag, the second time Verstappen and Hamilton collided on the straight in an apparent miscommunication over giving the place back, Verstappen being handed a post-race 10-second penalty for “erratic” braking.

It’s the latest episode in a long series of incidents, which also includes crashes between the two at Silverstone and Monza.

Hamilton, who said after the finish Verstappen was “over the limit” with some of his actions, thinks the lack of clear guidance from race control has muddied the waters and opened the door for more controversy in Jeddah.

He said all other drivers understand they can’t overtake off the track and keep the position but suggested that consensus “doesn’t apply to one of us”, implying Verstappen.

“I don’t think I’ve changed the way that I race,” Hamilton said.

“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.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, 1st position, drives into Parc Ferme
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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, 1st position, drives into Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

He also added: “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.”

Right after their collision on the straight, which both drivers somehow escaped without terminal damage, Hamilton called Verstappen a “f***ing crazy guy” on the team radio as tempers flared.

When asked if he was worried the clash between the two could put him out of the race and therefore hand the world title to Verstappen, Hamilton admitted that was the case, but said his comments were made in the heat of battle before he recomposed himself.

“I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case,” he explained.

“This is not the first time that I’ve had to avoid a collision and yeah, that’s how I felt at the moment.

“But you know, sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and re-watch things and then you maybe feel differently, but in the moment that’s how it felt.

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series
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Max Verstappen has been found at fault for the collision with Lewis Hamilton on Lap 37 of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and handed a penalty – but not one which affects the standings in the championship race.

The duo collided after Red Bull driver Verstappen was ordered to cede position to Hamilton, braking in the centre of the lane and causing his Mercedes rival to run into the back of his car, with some damage resulting to Hamilton’s front wing.

A stewards’ investigation suggested both drivers could have evaded the incident but found Verstappen “predominantly at fault” and suggested “erratic” braking undertaken “suddenly and significantly” caused the eventual impact.

The result is a 10-second time penalty for the Dutch racer, but with Valtteri Bottas finishing 16 seconds behind him in third, it means he stays second in the final race standings. Verstappen was also handed two penalty points on his licence.

Hamilton winning the race put him level on points in the driver standings with Verstappen, ahead of the final race of the season.

Lewis Hamilton (right) and Max Verstappen after the ill-tempered Saudi Arabian grand prix.
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Hamilton says Verstappen ‘doesn’t work with the same rule book’ after chaotic Saudi GP

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, calling him “fucking crazy”.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium by holding aloft the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix trophy after beating Max Verstappen, who is standing in the background with hands on hips
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Hamilton wins chaotic Saudi Arabian F1 GP to draw level with Verstappen

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.

Max Verstappen (left) challenges Lewis Hamilton for track advantage.
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Max Verstappen (left) challenges Lewis Hamilton for track advantage.

“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.”

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are now tied in the Formula One standings after Hamilton won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, leaving only next week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to decide the champion.

Hamilton, 36, wasn’t happy with Verstappen’s tactics during Sunday’s race, though.

“For me, I really had to try and just keep my cool out there, which was really difficult to do,” Hamilton told Sky Sports when asked about Verstappen, via ESPN. “I’ve raced a lot of drivers in my life, in the 28 years, I’ve come across a lot of different characters.

“There’s a few at the top which are… yeah, over the limit. Rules kinda don’t apply, or they don’t think of the rules.”

Verstappen, 24, received a five-second penalty for going off the track to hold off Hamilton and keep the lead late in the race. When he was then advised to give up the lead position to Hamilton, Verstappen slowed front of Hamilton resulting in a collision.

After the race, Verstappen said he didn’t understand what happened and that he slowed down to let Hamilton by.