Lewis Hamilton might be relieved to put a happy race behind him — but he wasn’t sure it was a good idea to even mention Max Verstappen.
Mercedes F1 driver Hamilton had his first victory of the season in Brazil Saturday, winning a rain-delayed race at Interlagos in Brazil by 0.15 seconds over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The Briton, who has won the last four race titles, leaves Interlagos now with two wins and seven podium finishes.
But before Hamilton’s win in Brazil, he was caught up in controversy Saturday morning when he appeared to block Verstappen’s Red Bull car from overtaking him on the second lap. At the time, Verstappen, who spent much of the race behind Vettel, was only a few car lengths behind the Red Bull driver.
Verstappen wasn’t happy about the incident, which seemed to be Hamilton’s intention.
“Really old-school tactics,” Verstappen said on the team radio before he subsequently drove into Hamilton’s back.
When Hamilton won at the GP in Brazil, many blamed his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who had a late pit stop with two laps remaining to save his tires and finish on the podium. However, Hamilton said he paid no attention to that.
“It’s no different than any race,” Hamilton said after the race. “I let Valtteri in, he pits, I come back. He came out and got overtaken, I let him in again and he’s still fighting on there. Same thing on the later (starts), nothing different, nothing different. That’s normal. What gets blown out of proportion, I don’t know.”
Hamilton had no problem weighing in on the controversy and seeming to stick up for himself.
“I’m the one who gets stuck in between the cars all the time!” he said. “We’re stuck in the middle, they don’t like it, but that’s the world we live in. I hope the boys (at Red Bull) look after him in the future.”
His remarks didn’t go over well on the grid either, with many criticizing him for speaking out.
“Haven’t seen what happened, but I don’t like it,” Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas said. “I don’t think he needs to say that — he can leave it alone.”
Even Verstappen seemed to take some offense.
“Ha! You said I didn’t move! I was behind,” he said. “… Just leave it alone, otherwise you’re not a team player.”
Hamilton wasn’t worried about the backlash, noting he’s as used to criticism as he is the top spot on the grid.
“I’ve had my moments over the years, but that is how it is,” he said. “Sometimes people are going to be upset. So, you know, get on with it.
“I’m happy with the way I raced today and my teammate. It’s how it works. There’s nobody giving advice. I mean, hopefully not (any more) either.”
At the start of the F1 season, Verstappen was performing at a level that led many to question his driver’s worth as a part of the Mercedes team. But he won the Italian Grand Prix in May, the first time he’d won a race since his F1 debut in 2014.
Since his May win, he also posted victories in the Austria and Germany Grand Prix in July and has finished second or third in each of the races since then.
Verstappen finished sixth in Brazil, with Hamilton leading the race until the weather took over.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished in third, said Hamilton seemed to be handling himself well in the controversy.
“He dealt with it very well,” Bottas said. “He’s obviously been through the same. We’ve all been through things. It’s just a part of the sport. You have to face it, learn from it, move on.”