Hamilton and Verstappen at odds over latest wheel-to-wheel duel
By Ian Parkes
Tuesday 4th April, 2023 - 1:44am
Lewis Hamilton has defended himself from accusations from Max Verstappen that he forced his F1 rival off the track at the start of the Australian Grand Prix.
In a race that contained four starts given there were three red flags throughout the event at Melbourne’s Albert Park, the reigning F1 champion conceded his first of those was “terrible” as he “didn’t get off the line well”.
It allowed Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell to pass the Red Bull on the inside through Turn 1.
Verstappen appeared to have regained his momentum through the Turn 2 sweep but with Hamilton directly behind him on the approach to the sharp Turn 3 right-hander, the Briton dived down the inside, forcing the Dutchman off the track.
Despite Verstappen’s complaints over the radio, the stewards opted not to take any action.
Given the number of incidents in the past between the pair, Verstappen can be credited for pulling out of the challenge as he held the ideal racing line going into Turn 3, and avoiding what could have been another collision.
The 25-year-old, however, maintained post-race that Hamilton was at fault.
“From my side, I just tried to avoid contact,” said Verstappen, in offering his version of events.
“It’s quite clear in the rules what is allowed, what you’re allowed to do now on the outside. But clearly, it’s not followed.
“But that’s okay. We had good pace and we passed them anyway. But it’s something for the next races to take into account.”
“That’s racing” – Hamilton
Suggested Hamilton had overstepped the mark, Verstappen showed he now possesses greater maturity with his racing by making clear he is playing the long game with a car that so far this season is on another level to Mercedes.
“I was quite careful,” added Verstappen. “I think I could have been a little bit more aggressive.
“But on the other hand, I didn’t want to have any damage on my car because I knew that we had a quick car, so even losing one or two spots was not the end of the world.”
From his perspective, seven-time F1 champion Hamilton felt he applied a hard-but-fair approach to the corner, emerging from it with second place at the time, a position in which he finished behind Verstappen at the end of a chaotic race.
“I thought it was pretty decent,” said Hamilton. “He braked early and I braked late and I was fully up the inside and I think we both left space for each other.
“I didn’t run him off the road and he didn’t turn in on me, so we didn’t touch and that’s racing.”
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