Lewis Hamilton vows not to enter a “childish” war of words with arch-rival Max Verstappen, but 1996 world champion Damon Hill says the Mercedes driver delivers the odd winding-up comment every now and then.
This year, all signs point to a showdown in the championship between Verstappen and Hamilton as Red Bull and Mercedes go head-to-head.
Although the battle has been fierce, the two drivers have so far avoided an on-track clash.
But Hamilton subtly ramped up the rhetoric ahead of last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, claiming that Verstappen’s fair but aggressive driving reflected the fact that he had something to prove.
The Dutchman hinted at the Briton’s allegation after his triumph in Monte Carlo, saying that “actions always speak louder than words”.
As Verstappen leads the drivers’ championship for the very first time in his career, Hill believes the 23-year-old is handling himself well in the face of this year’s tough battle.
“Max has definitely kept himself in his little bubble and he’s not letting anything distract him,” said Hill the latest F1 Nation podcast.
“I think his focus is quite good and it’s very easy to get derailed by journalists’ questions about whether or not you’re upset by some of the insinuations from someone else’s comments.
“He’s just not going there and I think he’s been playing it quite well. It’s a little bit dull sometimes, because you think ‘oh, come on, just a bit of banter’, but of course those things escalate, and they get out of control.”
Read also: Hamilton ‘agitated and out of practice’ in handling frustrations – Brawn
Hill believes that Hamilton – contrary to the seven-time world champion’s claim – purposefully engages in the odd ribbing of his rivaling on occasion.
“I think [the drivers] are probably more mature than we give them credit for sometimes,” added Hill. “But Lewis, he says he doesn’t, but he does play the odd comment every now and then.
“Remember with Nico [Rosberg] and he was talking about how he was from a poor background, not like a rich kid who lived in Monaco. Who was that directed at, exactly?”
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