After four close races between Formula One champion Luis Hamilton and title contender Max Verstappen, tensions appear to continue to rise at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.
Hamilton is aiming for a record eighth Formula One title to come out ahead of Michael Schumacher and he is leading the championship with 14 points ahead of Verstappen, who is looking for his first.
Hamilton leads Verstappen 3-1 in wins so far, but each race has seen them finish 1-2. Verstappen could win the first in Bahrain only to regain his position after going off the track near the end.
The next Hamilton damaged his Mercedes, trying to repel Verstappen’s magnificent start in the first corner of Emilia Romagna’s Grand Prix.
The nature of the wheel-to-wheel races has excited fans, but has also led Hamilton to say he was lucky enough to avoid crashes with the brave Verstappen.
“I think I did well to avoid all accidents,” Hamilton said Wednesday. “But we have 19 more (races left) and we could get in touch. He thinks he might have something to prove. I’m not in the same boat.”
Hamilton has already sealed the record-breaking 100th field position and is aiming for his 99th victory. He puts his longevity on a calm approach.
“I’m longer-term, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, a kind of mentality, which is why I end up with the statistics I have,” said the 36-year-old British driver.
“I will continue with this and do my best to make sure we avoid connecting (on the track).”
But as the youngest winner of an F1 race at 18 and with 11 wins in the race at the age of 23, Verstappen did not take Hamilton’s claim that he was trying to impress people very kindly.
“I have nothing to prove and the avoidance of contact goes in both directions. So (both) we did well,” said the Dutch pilot. “We are competing hard, we have avoided contact with both sides. Let’s hope we continue to do that and keep competing hard against each other.”
Verstappen has never won Monaco’s GP, but expects Red Bull to be strong in Saturday’s qualifiers on the track, where taking the pole is crucial, as overtaking is extremely difficult on the tough 3.4-kilometer street circuit.
“We had a competitive start, so I just hope it will be the same here,” Verstappen said.
“I’m sure we’ll have a competitive car.”
Hamilton expects a strong challenge from Red Bull, who won in Monaco three years ago and has increased his speed since then – although he still doesn’t catch up with Mercedes.
“It’s a track that’s always been strong for them, and given how big the difference is between us, you can imagine this weekend that they can be ahead,” Hamilton said.
“But we will do our best to make sure that’s not the case.” Hamilton teammate Valteri Botas has taken a field position, but has yet to fight for victory this season, and hopes for the Finnish driver’s title already look bleak in what could be his last season with Mercedes.
He is third with a total of 47 points, exactly half of Hamilton, who won the previous race here in 2019.
It was canceled last year due to the coronavirus, but some fans will be admitted at that time, starting with the two training sessions on Thursday.