Hamilton and Verstappen did not even glance at each other pre-race

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen didn’t even glance at each other in their pre-race media duties… the bitter F1 title rivals have nothing in common apart from a desire to claim the trophy that sat between them in Abu Dhabi

  • Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen shared the same drivers’ press conference
  • Both walked in and out of it separately and didn’t even acknowledge each other
  • Instead the bitter and fierce title rivals remained with their glances fixed forward
  • Their championship battle has been one of controversial clashes this season
  • That includes last week when Verstappen was accused of brake testing the Brit 

They walked in separately and they walked out separately.

Two men with nothing in common but the shared desire to get their hands on the world championship trophy that the choreographers had carefully positioned between them.

Just in case. 

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were only separated by the championship trophy 

The pair had a controversial clash at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last weekend

Max Verstappen’s most outspoken comments had come a few hours before the official press conference during a smaller media call in the Red Bull hospitality area. 

Lewis Hamilton was not there on that occasion and the Dutchman let rip at what he perceives to be the unjust hand of officialdom. 

‘Clearly things don’t apply for everyone because what I did in terms of defending, two other guys also did and they didn’t get a mention or penalty,’ said Verstappen, alluding to last weekend’s fractious race in Saudi Arabia.

‘I don’t understand because I thought I was just racing hard. What happened for me clearly didn’t deserve any penalty (a five-second addition for gaining an advantage for cutting a corner and 10 seconds for slowing/brake testing Hamilton).

‘It is only me who gets it. Fighting at the front means it is a bit more critical. But I don’t understand it. For me, I was not wrong.

‘Clearly only I was wrong somehow. As I said, other people do exactly the same thing and get nothing.

Hamilton won in Jeddah, levelling the points in the title race heading into the final grand prix

The pair kept their distance from one another during media briefings before the race

‘Both of us were off the track into Turn 1 and somehow they judged that it was my fault. That I don’t agree with.

‘The other penalty (the 10-second one) as well I don’t agree. Then he (Hamilton) pushes me off the track. He even looks at me and he gets a warning for that. It is definitely not how it should be and also not fair because it seems other drivers can do different things and only I get a penalty.’

As Sportsmail revealed on Thursday race director Michael Masi will warn Verstappen at Friday night’s drivers’ briefing that he risks being docked points — and so losing the world championship — if he deliberately bangs Hamilton off the track in Sunday’s title decider in Abu Dhabi.

The relevant provisions in the International Sporting Code were also included on Masi’s pre-race notes to underline the stewards’ right to act. So would Verstappen gamble with another penalty? 

‘Why should I change when others are allowed to race like that?’ he reasoned. ‘Everyone should be allowed to race like that.

‘I will just try my best and try to win this weekend. That is at the end of the day how you want to challenge him.’

Verstappen (ssecond left) walks the track with his Red Bull team at the Yas Marina circuit

Back at the official press conference, it was a case of ‘eyes front’. Not once did the pair turn towards each other as they sat a few feet apart.

Both kept their cool, neither rose to any bait, especially Hamilton who at least pretended to be as calm as he would like to be on the eve of his quest for a record eighth title.

Asked if he was certain Verstappen would act fairly, Hamilton was non-committal, saying: ‘Er, I don’t put any energy towards that sort of thing. At the end of the day, I do believe that everyone racing here comes to win. I would like to believe everyone wants to do it the right way, so I don’t let that creep into my mind.

‘I’m here to do the best job I can with this incredible team. We never thought that we would be neck-and-neck going into the last race.’ Yes, but only a few days earlier, after the Saudi race, Hamilton had called Verstappen ‘crazy’.

Hamilton meanwhile observed the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit by his electric scooter

Did that judgment still stand? Hamilton tried to play down the comments.

‘Honestly, when we’re in the races we will say all sorts of things because of the heat of the moment, adrenalin is firing, your emotions are on edge, so yeah, I would say it was a figure of speech,’ he said.

‘Ultimately all we drivers are a bit crazy to do what we do and take the risks that we do.’

The deciding race is expected to attract a bumper terrestrial TV audience after Sky Sports agreed to let Channel 4 broadcast their coverage live on Sunday from 12 noon. They will incorporate Sky’s coverage from 12.30pm. 

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