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'Stupid idiot!': Max Verstappen blasts Lewis Hamilton - hours after claiming pair had buried hatchet

·3-min read
'Stupid idiot!': Max Verstappen blasts Lewis Hamilton - hours after claiming pair had buried hatchet - GETTY IMAGES
'Stupid idiot!': Max Verstappen blasts Lewis Hamilton - hours after claiming pair had buried hatchet - GETTY IMAGES

Max Verstappen labelled title rival Lewis Hamilton a “stupid idiot” on Friday, flicking the Mercedes man the middle finger as the two drivers went wheel-to-wheel in practice for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who leads the drivers’ championship by just six points from Hamilton with six races remaining, had insisted just hours earlier that they had buried the hatchet following a series of high-profile clashes this season.

"We all have those times where we have low moments with someone, but we are human beings," Verstappen had said. "We move on, and we forgive."

The 23-year-old could not disguise his irritation, however, after an incident in FP2 which saw the two drivers race side by side down the pit straight in the middle of the session.

"Stupid idiot," Verstappen fumed over the radio, extending his middle finger in Hamilton’s direction. "Just ignore it," replied his race engineer Giampiero Lambiase.

Verstappen was seemingly unable to let go of his irritation, swearing repeatedly over the radio later in the session as he found himself held up in traffic.

The Dutchman’s emotional response may be a sign that the pressure of one of the most exciting title races in years is getting to him.

The Red Bull driver had earlier denied that was the case, repeating his claim that winning the championship would not change his life so there was little point getting too worked up about it., and adding that his relationship with Hamilton was far less fiery than people might think.

"We have got together [collided] a few times and we were not happy with each other," he said. "But a few races later you can see us sitting together in a press conference and laughing with each other again, and that is how racing goes.

"A lot of people look at you and rate the rivalry, but at the end of the day it is not all that bad. Nobody looks to get together in a race but unfortunately these things happen. They have happened in go-karting and they have happened in Formula One."

Hamilton trails Verstappen by six points in the driver standings - AFP
Hamilton trails Verstappen by six points in the driver standings - AFP

This latest incident will undoubtedly lead to speculation that Verstappen’s calmness in press conferences is merely an act.

Asked to explain his outburst afterwards, Verstappen said that he could not understand what Hamilton was thinking. "We were all lining up to go for our laps so I don’t really understand what happened there," he said.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he felt Hamilton had "jumped the queue", while former world champion Jenson Button suggested Hamilton might have done it purely to wind Verstappen up.

"I don’t know if that was playing games or what but obviously it did rattle Max a little bit," Button mused.

Hamilton himself kept his counsel. In 30C heat, Mercedes looked to have the faster car, with Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton going one-two in FP1 and Hamilton again showing faster qualifying pace than the Red Bulls in FP2 even if the seven-time world champion was not entirely happy.

"FP1 was a really good session," he said. "Then we made some changes and I wasn't happy in FP2. I don't think it's the heat necessarily, I think it's literally just the track surface is rougher than before and it's a struggle to keep the temperature out of the tyres."

And the title race, seemingly. They may be playing it cool off track but emotions are clearly still running high on it.

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