Lewis Hamilton has suggested that recent comments by Max Verstappen about the six-time Formula 1 world champion are “a sign of weakness”.
Asked at a Red Bull media event earlier this month if he could beat Hamilton to the title, Verstappen stated, “Yes.
“Of course, it is very car-dependent in Formula 1. Lewis is very good, he is definitely one of the best out there, but he is not God.
“Maybe God is with him, but he is not God.”
When those comments were raised with Hamilton at Mercedes’ shakedown/filming day, he responded, “I find it funny.
“I have always been known to do my talking on the track.
“I tend to see that as a sign of weakness so…”
The Mercedes-AMG F1 Team has won all six drivers’ championships and all six constructors’ championships in the current, hybrid era, with Hamilton himself crowned five times in that period.
The Briton and Valtteri Bottas ended up one-two in the standings last year, with Verstappen next best at 48 points further behind.
Verstappen reasoned at the aforementioned event that Mercedes’ clear superiority has enabled Hamilton to drive within himself.
According to the Dutchman, Hamilton does indeed have a fallibility which can be exposed if Red Bull Racing can get close enough to the Silver Arrows.
“When you can put the pressure on it is a lot harder for the guy in the lead,” reasoned Verstappen.
“If he never really has pressure, he can drive at 97 or 98 percent and then you never make mistakes.
“If we start the season within two tenths, we can mount the pressure.
“I am looking forward to when we get that fight and if we are really close, I am pretty sure we can do better.”
Verstappen’s boss, Christian Horner, insists that Red Bull is “very close now to Mercedes” on account of stability in the Milton Keynes team, stability in regulations, and the progress made by power unit supplier Honda.
Hamilton says there is no sense of complacency from himself or the team.
“This is my eighth year with the team, so the buzz is the same every year,” he added.
“Everyone couldn’t be more excited, they couldn’t be more enthusiastic or more driven and I would say it is probably the most impressive thing.
“We had the success and it could be quite easy for them to lay back today but we have the same group, everyone is super focused and there has been so much work that has been done in the background to make sure that today (shakedown) runs smoothly.
“I think everyone gets excited, everyone seems refreshed, revamped and ready for the challenges ahead.”
Pre-season testing commences in Barcelona on Wednesday.