‘You have to be more wary than ever’: Lewis Hamilton aims at title rival Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton has targeted title rival Max Verstappen as the pair prepare for the final two races of an epic 2021 season.

The two drivers have been wheel to wheel – literally multiple times – throughout the campaign, with Hamilton storming to victory at the Qatar Grand Prix last weekend to narrow the gap with the Dutchman to just eight points.

Speak with BBC Sports, the seven-time world champion admitted that Verstappen’s unnecessarily aggressive style on the track has caused him to take a safety approach, which he believes has generally worked well.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided several times during their 2021 title fight

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided several times during their 2021 title fight

The 36-year-old follows the Dutchman eight points behind with two races to go after winning in Qatar

The 36-year-old follows the Dutchman eight points behind with two races to go after winning in Qatar

The 36-year-old follows the Dutchman eight points behind with two races to go after winning in Qatar

“You just have to be very, very wary — more wary than ever before,” he explained. “Instead of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you need to know that that’s going to happen.

“So you should always be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because you want to see the end of the race, right? If you’re stubborn and stand your ground, you’re going to crash.

“So that’s what I just tried to do. I tried to avoid the collision. And I think I’ve been pretty good at it in most scenarios. You can’t always get it perfect.

“I’m not too big or too successful to have to retire another day. I know sometimes that’s the road to take. You must be the smarter one.

“And sometimes you definitely lose points with that, but it’s not just about me. I’ve got 2000 people behind me and because of that selfish decision I could make – ‘No, I’ll hold my own’ and not finish – that costs all my team possible bonuses at the end of the year, very hard work they have to do the damage to the car. I am also aware of those things.’

The tone for the season was set at the opening race in Bahrain when Hamilton overtook Verstappen to claim victory before the tables turned in Emilia-Romagna.

The first major incident of the season between the pair saw Verstappen crash at Silverstone

The first major incident of the season between the pair saw Verstappen crash at Silverstone

The first major incident of the season between the pair saw Verstappen crash at Silverstone

Hamilton won the Grand Prix when a hospitalized Verstappen lashed out on Twitter

Hamilton won the Grand Prix when a hospitalized Verstappen lashed out on Twitter

Hamilton won the Grand Prix when a hospitalized Verstappen lashed out on Twitter

Verstappen advanced in the title race after winning race five in Monaco and extended his lead into July for the first major flashpoint with Hamilton when the younger man crashed out of Silverstone on lap one and was hospitalized when the pair jostled at Copse corner.

Hamilton was handed a 10-second penalty after the restart before roaring to grab the checkered flag.

An enraged Christian Horner said in the aftermath of the race that the crash had left Red Bull with a £1.3m repair bill, while Verstappen chided Hamilton for what he felt was ‘a dangerous move Lewis made on the track’, and termed his post-race celebrations as “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike.”

Mercedes then accused Red Bull of trying to tarnish Hamilton’s name by punishing him after the race. Hamilton ultimately avoided any further penalty.

Christian Horner said Hamilton caused £1.3m worth of damage to Verstappen's car

Christian Horner said Hamilton caused £1.3m worth of damage to Verstappen's car

Christian Horner said Hamilton caused £1.3m worth of damage to Verstappen’s car

Hamilton, however, avoided further punishment as the blue touch paper was well and truly lit

Hamilton, however, avoided further punishment as the blue touch paper was well and truly lit

Hamilton, however, avoided further punishment as the blue touch paper was well and truly lit

The narrowing of the lead lit up the blue touch paper of a season that was threatening to get old and Hamilton leapt ahead of Verstappen in the drivers’ championship by staging a dramatic pullback to finish second in Mexico, taking advantage of the chaos caused by teammate Valtteri Bottas, who damaged Verstappen’s car and resulted in him finishing ninth.

Consecutive wins for Verstappen in Hungarian and his home event in Zandvoort saw the lead change hands again before the pair got a little too close for comfort at Monza as Verstappen’s Red Bull flew off an uphill corner and flew onto Hamilton’s Mercedes, carrying only the Halo device that provided protection for the Briton from catastrophic injuries.

Both men blamed the other for the incident, ending their races abruptly.

Hamilton was then centimeters away from a tragedy at Monza when Verstappen's car went over him

Hamilton was then centimeters away from a tragedy at Monza when Verstappen's car went over him

Hamilton was then centimeters away from a tragedy at Monza when Verstappen’s car went over him

Mud-throwing resumed when both men accused the other of being at fault for the incident

Mud-throwing resumed when both men accused the other of being at fault for the incident

Mud-throwing resumed when both men accused the other of being at fault for the incident

Verstappen was handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix when Hamilton responded by winning at Sochi to turn it into 100 F1 wins – an unprecedented achievement.

The win moved Hamilton back to first overall, but a disastrous pit stop strategy wiped out the championship lead.

A very fraught moment in practice for the US Grand Prix saw Verstappen raise his middle finger at Hamilton, but he recovered his composure to recover from missing pole and claim victory in a close race before he took it. victory confirmed with a dominant drive in Mexico.

Hamilton’s qualifying times in Brazil were subsequently wiped out after Mercedes was found guilty of violating his car’s rear wing regulations, but he worked his way up to 10th place in the sprint before producing one of the biggest drives of his career to secure a clearing the field and overtook Verstappen, who escaped sanction after being accused by Mercedes of forcing his rival off the track.

Hamilton had one of his best ever drives to win the Brazilian Grand Prix earlier this month

However, he felt that Verstappen should have been punished for trying to push him off the track

However, he felt that Verstappen should have been punished for trying to push him off the track

However, he felt that Verstappen should have been punished for trying to push him off the track

With a 12-point difference between the two drivers entering Qatar, Hamilton complained that it was ‘not clear’ what dangerous driving was in the eyes of the stewards after Verstappen’s Interlagos incident, a position the Dutchman is unsurprisingly reluctant to take. once was.

George Russell – Hamilton’s teammate next year – thought Verstappen was not penalized just because Hamilton won the race, which he felt was unfair, while Charles Leclerc said the ruling meant “overtaking outside will be very difficult”.

Hamilton’s win at the Losail International Circuit over the weekend means there are now just eight points between him and Verstappen, with only Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi remaining. All that is to be expected is a pulsating finale to a gripping season.

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