Formula One: Verstappen relishing fierce fight with Hamilton for F1 crown

Red Bull's Max Verstappen attends a press conference ahead of the grand prix in Qatar.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen attends a press conference ahead of the grand prix in Qatar.PHOTO: AFP

DOHA (AFP) - Max Verstappen was in bullish mood on Thursday (Nov 18), declaring his heated Formula One title battle with Lewis Hamilton was no "kindergarten" and that he would continue his aggressive approach in this weekend's inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old championship leader defended so fiercely in last Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix that he forced the seven-time world champion off the Interlagos track.

That incident was under scrutiny as he spoke on Thursday as a stewards' review took place at the Losail International Circuit where the Red Bull and Mercedes teams were again locked in conflict.

Verstappen was not surprised, he said, that Mercedes had asked for the review, but made clear he would react in just the same way again as he had on Lap 41 in Sao Paulo to retain the lead.

Hamilton eventually found his way past and went on to claim an epic victory that trimmed the Dutchman's lead to 14 points with three races remaining.

The incident was not deemed worthy of further action last Sunday, but the release of Verstappen's on-board video persuaded Mercedes that a review was necessary.

But Verstappen was not impressed.

"If it would have been the other way around in Brazil, it would have exactly played out like that," he said, suggesting that Hamilton can be just as brutal when required.

"Yeah, it's hard racing, we are fighting for a championship. We are not here to be in a kindergarten. I thought it was a great battle and I had a lot of fun as well out there.

"As a driver, I think we know exactly what we can or cannot do in a car and we were fighting hard, braking late into the corner and the tyres were quite worn.

"If I would have turned more abruptly to the left, you'd just spin off the track. At the end of the day, they won the race, fair enough. They were faster than us, but I thought it was a good battle."

As Mercedes launched their request for a review, Red Bull continued to grumble about the power of Hamilton's new power unit and the rear wing of his car, which had been deemed irregular in Brazil and led to him losing pole position.