Lewis Hamilton admits the intensity of his on-track rivalry with Max Verstappen raises the likelihood of a collision, but feels their mutual respect has helped keep things clean between them so far this season.
Verstappen and Hamilton have gone wheel-to-wheel at some point in all four races to date this year, with Verstappen overtaking the seven-time world champion with robust moves at the start in both Imola and Barcelona. Despite being forced to yield at those times, Hamilton has still only been beaten by Verstappen at Imola thus far, and says his approach will remain more conservative against his rival.
“I’ve done well to avoid all the incidents so far but we’ve got 19 more to go,” Hamilton said. “We could connect — hopefully not. I think the good thing is I think there is a nice balanced amount of respect between us.
“Perhaps he feels that he has a lot to prove but I am not necessarily in the same boat there and I am more long term — it’s a marathon not a sprint, sort of mentality — which is ultimately why I have the stats that I have. I will continue with that and I will do everything to make sure that we do avoid connecting.”
The next installment of the battle will play out at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix where qualifying is crucial, and Hamilton admits the racing spectacle has declined since the venue first hosted F1.
“I wasn’t around then so I don’t know whether or not necessarily that was the golden age but of course, it was a time where there wasn’t much downforce; it was probably a bit wider here. Now we have much bigger cars, much faster. Almost zero opportunity to overtake in the race but it’s been the case for some time.
“In my opinion, it needs to change. We’ve had the same format for years. It’s the best venue and it is the most beautiful place we get to race at but you already know that it’s never exciting for fans. It’s a one-stop race with these hard, long stints that we get to do and as I said, it’s on the list of places where it’s difficult to overtake — it’s off the scale, highly unlikely you’ll get an opportunity to do so. I don’t think the fans enjoy that. I don’t know what the solution is but I am hoping when we are looking forwards to future generations it can be a more exciting race for people.”
As a spectacle, though, Hamilton admits Monaco still offers unique appeal.
“There are two elements. There’s the practice and just driving the track — going through the tunnel, up into the Casino — the whole experience through the weekend is mesmerizing and that never changes. The feeling of winning here is never any less. Every year it is unique and special if you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity.
“But, as a racer, we’ve got a lot of tracks that we go to where you see racing. It’s been an exciting start to the season where you’re seeing people overtaking. You’re seeing the whole field closed up. You’re going to see a train, naturally, on Sunday. Fans already know what’s going to happen this weekend but it’s still exciting to watch, somehow.”