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‘He doesn’t know me’: Verstappen shrugs off Hamilton’s title pressure comments

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen traded verbal blows at the Russian Grand Prix, less than two weeks after a crash that knocked both of the Formula One title rivals out of the last race.

Seven-time champion Hamilton suggested Verstappen was feeling the pressure of fighting for what would be his first title.

“I remember what it was like fighting for my first championship, and obviously I’m fighting my 10th battle, something like that,” the British driver said.

“I remember what it was like and I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences that go with it. So I can empathize with that.

“I think what’s important is that we just continue to race hard but fair.”

Verstappen dismissed Hamilton’s comments.

“I’m so nervous I can barely sleep. It’s so horrible to fight for a title, I really hate it,” Verstappen said.

“Those comments, it just shows you that he doesn’t really know me, which is fine. I also don’t need to know him, how he is fully, but I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there in front.”

The rivals collided halfway through the last race in Italy, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to claim a surprise win for McLaren.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff credited the protective “halo” device around Hamilton’s cockpit with saving his life after Verstappen’s car bounced over his head.

Verstappen has a three-place grid penalty in Russia after he was blamed for the crash — “Not ideal, but not the end of the world,” he said.

The day after the crash, Hamilton attended the Met Gala in New York. He credited yoga and acupuncture with helping him to recover from neck pain sustained in the crash and said in Russia he was feeling fine.

“It’s natural that when a car lands on your head, you’re going to have some sort of discomfort,” Hamilton said.

“I didn’t say I was dying. Of course, aware of the fact that just in a millisecond anything can happen, and so I did feel grateful to come out of it not badly injured.”

It was the second time the two drivers clashed this year after a similar incident at the British GP. On that occasion, Verstappen ended up in the hospital. Hamilton got a 10-second penalty but still went on to win the race.

Verstappen has a five-point lead over Hamilton in the championship. It’s not clear how many races remain, either seven or eight, because one venue still hasn’t been confirmed for an open slot on November 21.

Verstappen has managed to carve through the field before in Sochi after grid penalties, rocketing from 19th to fifth within the opening eight laps of the 2018 race.

Mercedes drivers have won all seven races at the Olympic Park circuit, with four wins for Hamilton.

AP

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