Lewis Hamilton: Max Verstappen’s comments are a sign of weakness
Red Bull driver Verstappen has attributed much of Hamilton’s success to his Mercedes car.
Lewis Hamilton has labelled Max Verstappen’s apparent failure to recognise his achievements as a sign of weakness.
Hamilton, 35, will this year bid to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships.
The British star has dominated Formula One in recent years, winning five of the last six titles.
But Verstappen, the 22-year-old Dutchman who could prove Hamilton’s fiercest challenger this season, has attributed much of that success to his rival’s Mercedes car.
The Silver Arrows have won the past six drivers’ and constructors’ championships, a record in the sport.
“I find it funny,” said Hamilton when asked about Verstappen’s comments. “I have always been known to do my talking on the track, so I tend to see that [criticism] as a sign of weakness.”
Hamilton, 13 years older than Red Bull driver Verstappen, was speaking as his Mercedes team unveiled their new car at Silverstone in a low-key launch on Friday.
Hamilton has entered the final 12 months of his current £40million-a-year deal with Mercedes.
But, after Ferrari seemingly distanced themselves from a move for the six-time world champion at their car launch in Italy earlier this week, the signs are that Hamilton will sign a contract extension.
“It is a real privilege to be wanted to stay and to be part of a great team,” added Hamilton. “That is a great feeling, and I hope I can continue to help to contribute to the team’s success.
“Every year I am trying to improve, take a step up, refine the game and the mental approach. That is the real challenge.
“But I have a great team that I get to work with and every year we are extracting more from each other.”
With only minor tweaks to the sport’s technical rulebook over the winter, Hamilton will start as the favourite to match Schumacher’s tally of titles this year. He is also just seven victories shy of the German’s win record of 91.
“At this time of the year you don’t really feel any pressure,” the Mercedes driver said. “You are focused but it is about enjoying the moment.
“The guys have worked so hard to put the car together and there are only two of us, Valtteri (Bottas) and I, who get to drive it.
“This is my eighth year driving for Mercedes, and the buzz is the same. The team couldn’t be more excited, more enthusiastic, or more driven, and that is the most impressive thing.”
Hamilton, who will be partnered by Bottas for a fourth successive year, drove his new machine during a shakedown run at Silverstone on Friday afternoon.
He will be back in action at next week’s first three-day pre-season test in Barcelona, before he opens his championship defence in Melbourne on March 15.
Mercedes, meanwhile, have appointed Stoffel Vandoorne as their reserve driver for the new campaign. The Belgian, 27, spent two seasons with McLaren before losing his seat to Britain’s Lando Norris.