Hamilton admits to treating Verstappen differently

It was inevitable that there would be clash at Turn 1, there usually is.

However, while Lewis Hamilton had a close encounter with Sebastian Vettel on the run to the first corner, it was with Max Verstappen that things got a little more serious.

As the pair battled for track position, desperately trying to avoid contact, they both ran wide, and on rejoining the track almost clashed again.

While Hamilton was able to recover, Verstappen lost a number of positions and in his subsequent efforts to pass Valtteri Bottas, clouted the Mercedes and incurred a costly puncture.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton admitted that Verstappen is one of those drivers he treats differently to his other rivals.

“Every driver is slightly different,” the Briton told reporters. “Some are smarter; some are like very smart, aggressive and some are silly with it.

“So, through those experiences of racing with people, you give some more space and others you don’t have to,” he added. “They’re quite respectful.

“But yeah, Max, it’s very likely you’re going to come together with Max if you don’t give him extra space,” he smiled, “so most of the time you do.

“In my experience, I didn’t have a lot of space to give him extra space,” he said of the incident. “But I don’t think it was intentional or anything like that. It was just… he’s a magnet for those kind of things, nonetheless, I managed to keep the car together and in a straight line, fortunately.”

Asked if he also treats Verstappen differently, Sebastian Vettel merely replied, “Yes and yes”. Asked to expand, he added, clearly referring to Hamilton’s comment: “Just copy-paste. It’s true.”

“Out of nowhere he appeared on the inside into Turn 13 and,” added Bottas, “you know, I couldn’t disappear from there.

“He just dived in and we touched. He got a puncture from that, so… yeah, I couldn’t really avoid him, so I think he earned his own puncture, definitely.

“I don’t know, every driver is obviously different. Some are more aggressive, some are less. I haven’t raced very closely for some time with all of them, so I can’t say in detail for all the drivers.”

Asked about the incident, Hamilton said: “I actually got a really good start, so I was pulling up to Charles and Seb is coming across, coming across, coming across and I’m thinking ‘I’m on the white line, I don’t have anywhere further to go’. And he just keeps coming.

“So I had to avoid crashing with him, going on the grass. Avoid his wheels as well, otherwise I could have caused a big collision for him.

“Then I was surrounded by a bunch of cars, I braked into Turn 1, and all of a sudden Max is alongside me. If you’ve seen races before, I always leave Max a lot of space, it’s the smartest thing you can do. But there wasn’t a lot of space to give him space. I think he had an oversteer moment or something and then I got a massive hit from behind. Then I nearly took him out…”

“He hit you?” asked Vettel.

“Yeah. We were going through the corner, you were about to go into Turn 2, my back end came out and I nearly took you out and then we went straight over the grass. It was hair-raising.”

“Ah, that’s why there was such a big gap and there was Albon all of a sudden…,” said the German.

“Yeah, me and Max went through the grass together, came out and there were other cars coming by. I thought I was going to get hit by other cars. But I managed to get my bearings and keep my head down.”

Asked if he incurred damage in the incident, Hamilton said: “Yeah, a big part of the side of my rear floor was missing. I didn’t actually know how much was missing or what was damaged but the balance was quite a lot different.

“The rear end was quite weak so I was particularly sliding around a lot in the high-speed, so I had to change my settings quite a lot and had to drive it a little bit differently because I couldn’t attack the same way on the entry of corners because the rear stability wasn’t the same.

“I’ll probably find out later on just how much we were losing but I would imagine a good couple of tenths probably, just from rear floor damage. It’s quite a sensitive area around where the tyres is.”

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