Formula One: Hamilton aims to avoid hitman Verstappen in Texas showdown by giving 'extra space'

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during the Mexican Grand Prix on Oct 27, 2019.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during the Mexican Grand Prix on Oct 27, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton hopes to steer clear of Max Verstappen at next weekend's United States Grand Prix in Texas, where he aims to clinch his sixth Formula One drivers' world championship.

Like Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel who said he also concedes extra space to the Dutchman, the Briton believes that when racing against the Red Bull driver there is a higher possibility of contact and an accident.

In the wake of his perfectly executed strategic triumph for Mercedes in Sunday's Mexican Grand Prix, in which he made contact with Verstappen on the opening lap, Hamilton said he believed there was a higher risk of an accident while racing against him than others.

"Every driver is slightly different," he said, answering a question in the post-race news conference.

"Some are smarter and some are very smart aggressive. Some are silly with it..." "Through those experiences with racing with people, you give some more space than others, but, yeah, (with) Max, it's very likely you'll come together with Max - if you don't give him extra space.

"Most of the time you do. In my experience (in Sunday's race), I didn't have extra space to give him, but I don't think it was intentional. Nonetheless, I managed to keep the car in a straight line."

Hamilton survived his brush with Verstappen to make full use of a well-judged one-stop strategy and claim the 83rd victory of his career and his 10th in 18 races this year, leaving him needing to finish just eighth in the United States to take his sixth title.

Verstappen was chasing a hat-trick of Mexico victories, but undid his chances on Saturday in qualifying when he was punished for ignoring yellow flags following Valtteri Bottas' crash and then told a news conference that "it doesn't matter".

 
 

Wide berth

He was penalised three grid positions, losing pole position, and started fourth alongside Hamilton. The pair tangled and then Verstappen clashed with Bottas, who finished third in the second Mercedes. Verstappen suffered a puncture and pitted. He re-joined last, but charged through the field to finish sixth.

His surging and dramatic drive, packed with daring passing moves, was thrilling for his fans, but demonstrated why he is dubbed "Mad Max" and given a wide berth by his rivals.

"He got a puncture from that," said Bottas of Verstappen's hopeful failed lunge to pass him. "I couldn't really avoid him. I think he earned his own puncture. Definitely..."

Vettel, who finished second, smiled as he listened to Hamilton's responses before being posed the same questions about Verstappen.

"Yes and yes," he replied, nodding his agreement with Hamilton's views. "Just copy and paste... It's true."

The German four-time world champion smiled as he sat alongside five-time champion Hamilton with Bottas nearby.

Verstappen, 22, a victim of his own impetuosity, was hardly in any position to argue after an afternoon that demonstrated his crowd-pleasing skills but also left another dent in his reputation.