Verstappen laughs off rival Hamilton’s pressure comments
September 24 2021 12:01 AM
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (left) and Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton address the drivers’ press conference
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (left) and Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton address the drivers’ press conference for the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom Circuit in Sochi yesterday. (AFP)

Reuters/ Sochi

Hamilton says he has empathy for Verstappen, Dutch driver responds with sarcasm

Max Verstappen hit back with sarcasm yesterday after seven times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton suggested his young Red Bull rival was feeling the pressure of a first title tilt.
“I’m so nervous I can barely sleep,” the Dutch 23-year-old told reporters at the Russian Grand Prix when Hamilton’s comments were put to him.
“It’s so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it,” he added.
Verstappen said those who knew him could testify how relaxed he was.
“I’m very chilled. It’s the best feeling ever to have a great car where you go into every weekend and you can fight for a win... those comments just show you that he really doesn’t know me,” he said of his Mercedes rival.
“Which is fine. I also don’t need to know him, how he is fully. I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there in front and hopefully we can do that for a very long time.”
Verstappen is five points clear of Hamilton after 14 of 22 rounds but has a three-place grid penalty for Sochi after they collided in the previous race at Monza.
Their clashes have become the story of the season as Verstappen and Red Bull seek to end seven years of Mercedes domination and dethrone the most successful driver of all time.
Hamilton had earlier told reporters that he knew from experience what Verstappen was going through. “Obviously he won’t admit to it and I’m not going to make an assumption,” the Briton added when asked whether he felt the pressure was starting to catch up with Verstappen. “I’m just saying that I remember what it was like when I had my first one and it definitely mounted up. It was difficult, it was intense, I was going through a lot of different emotions and I didn’t always handle it the best.”
“That’s to be expected... there’s a lot of self-expectation and pressure because the desire to win is huge. I empathise and understand that.”
Hamilton won his first championship in 2008 as a 23-year-old with McLaren, in what was his second season. Verstappen is now a veteran of 133 races and in his seventh campaign.
Hamilton said there were no lingering effects from Monza, where Verstappen’s car ended up on top of the Mercedes with a rear wheel hitting the Briton’s helmet.
He said he had done yoga and acupuncture and his physiotherapist Angela Cullen had flown with him to America, where he attended the Met Gala fashion show in New York.
The 36-year-old batted aside reported comments from Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko questioning how much pain he had really felt. “I don’t really listen to what these individuals talk about. It’s natural when a car lands on your head that you’re going to have some sort of discomfort,” he said.
“I didn’t say I was dying. Just aware that in a millisecond anything can happen. I did feel grateful to come out of it not badly injured and move on.”
Hamilton said he was putting no energy into worrying about more collisions.
“I think what’s important is that we just continue to race hard and fair and I have no doubts that we will both be professional and learn from the past,” he said.

Haas F1 confirm Mazepin and Mick Schumacher for 2022
Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher will continue to race for Formula One tail-enders Haas next season, the US-owned team confirmed yesterday.
The Russian and German 22-year-olds are in their rookie season, with Haas the only team yet to score a point in 2021. Next year will be Haas’s seventh season.
Mazepin is the son of a Russian billionaire who controls the team’s title sponsor Uralkali, while Schumacher is the son of Ferrari great and seven times world champion Michael.
Ferrari provides the team’s engines, with Schumacher a member of their driver academy.
Team boss Guenther Steiner said in a statement that the team wanted continuity for 2022, the start of a new era with major rules changes, after a learning year for both drivers.
“It’s been a tough season for sure with the package we’ve had, but at the same time they’ve both embraced the challenge and worked closely with the team to learn our processes and adapt to the rigours of a Formula One campaign,” he said.
“Now as we look ahead to the 2022 season, we’re confident we can move forward as a team and give Mick and Nikita a competitive race package to make the next step in their Formula One careers.”
The pair have clashed on track this season, with the team having to step in to calm things down. “By being part of the Formula One field, I am living my dream,” said Schumacher, who looked forward to fighting for points.
Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies said in a separate statement that 2020 F2 champion Schumacher had shown “speed, determination, a strong work ethic and a desire and ability to learn.
“We are very confident that he will continue to make even more progress in a team that shares his ambitions,” he added.
Mazepin, Russia’s sole current F1 driver and preparing for a home race in Sochi this weekend, said he was excited for 2022.
“I think we will come out strong next year,” he added.

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