Lewis Hamilton said he wants to be recognised as “the purest of drivers” amid a tense championship battle with Max Verstappen that has frequently boiled over on the track and in the paddocks this season.
After Hamilton’s dominant victory in Qatar, he trails Verstappen by just eight points in the drivers’ standings, with two races remaining of what’s been a thrilling season.
The drama has been punctuated by moments of temper and tension, most recently in Brazil when Verstappen appeared to force Hamilton off the track, although he escaped any punishment from the stewards.
Ahead of the penultimate race in Saudi Arabia, Hamilton said he hoped to win his record-breaking eighth title through “speed, sheer hard work and determination”, without the caveat of any crashes or collisions.
“It’s just how my dad raised me,” said Hamilton. “He said to always do your talking on the track. I was bullied as a kid, both at school but also on track, and we wanted to beat them the right way, not by a car falling off or colliding.
“Then, there is no denying that you’re better. If you have collisions, they can say, ‘oh, yeah, but this happened, this is one tactic that that driver has.’
“I want to be the purest of drivers, through speed, through sheer hard work and determination, so there’s no denying at the end what I’ve accomplished.”
Verstappen has been an aggressive rival during the championship race and has pulled few punches, with the pair infamously colliding at the British and Italian Grand Prix.
Asked how he has had to adapt to the Dutch driver, Hamilton said: “You just have to be very, very wary. More wary than ever before.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have at times been acrimonious rivals
“Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that’s what’s going to happen. You always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because at the end of the day you want to see the end of the race, right?
“If you’re stubborn and you hold your ground, you’re going to crash. So that’s what I’ve just tried to do. I’ve tried to make sure I avoid the collision.
“I think I’ve been pretty decent at it in most scenarios. You can’t always get it perfect, but then there’s other drivers you drive with who are aggressive and respectful in different ways.
“But he’s not the only driver I’ve raced against that’s like this. I’ve raced so many drivers in my time and they’ve all been very different in the way they behave. And it’s interesting. Now I’m older, I look a little bit deeper into their character and a bit of their background, upbringing.
“Our upbringing is why we act out the way we do and behave the way we do, good or bad. So I try to understand those, so I can have more appreciation of who that character is I am racing with.”
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