'Lewis can't bear to utter my name': Max Verstappen on Mercedes rival

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Lewis can’t bear to utter my name’: Max Verstappen shrugs off rival Hamilton’s antagonism as the two-time world champion calls for ‘respect’ following his achievements at Red Bull

  • Max Verstappen has shrugged of Lewis Hamilton’s recent references about him
  • The Red Bull star was referred to ‘they’ and ‘them’ by Mercedes driver Hamilton
  • Verstappen revealed that his Mercedes rival has refused to call him by his name
  • The Dutchman topped Saturday’s qualifying session at the Mexico grand prix 

It has been brought to Max Verstappen’s attention that Lewis Hamilton can barely permit himself to refer to him by name.

When asked at press conferences about the deeds of the Dutchman who dethroned him as world champion, Hamilton will deflect his praise on to Red Bull’s superior machinery and talk of ‘they’ and ‘them’ and not ‘Max’ and ‘he’.

The antagonism goes back to last year’s crash-punctuated title fight that only partly ended in the controversy of the last race Abu Dhabi, where Verstappen was helped by the withdrawal of a safety car to pass Hamilton on the final lap.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has revealed that Lewis Hamilton won’t call him by his name

In an interview with Mail On Sunday, the two-time world champion discussed his rical

Mercedes driver Hamilton (right) has finished behind the Dutchman for the past two seasons 

Cue revenge. Mercedes lobbied successfully for race director Michael Masi to be fired for his pivotal role in events. And only last Friday, Red Bull were found to have broken the budget cap for 2021, another bowl of intrigue in which Mercedes’ silver spoon could be detected.

So this is the context in which Hamilton, winless this season, has refused to deploy the word ‘Max’ as his 25-year-old rival has charged to his second championship success with 13 victories heading into Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

‘People have told me that he doesn’t use my name,’ said Verstappen, with a smile, in an interview with The Mail on Sunday. 

Hamilton (left) referred to Verstappen and Red Bull as ‘they’ and ‘them’ in a press conference

The Mercedes star has struggled to get going this season and hasn’t won a single race

‘I was always taught that you have to respect what people have achieved in sport. I have no problem with what Lewis has achieved. He is one of the best ever.

‘I know it is not only the car he has been driving. That helps. We all know that, but you still have to beat your team-mate and Lewis has done that consistently. I think you have to acknowledge the person has done an amazing job as well.’

It was also noticeable that Hamilton’s congratulatory handshake when Verstappen completed his season’s mission in Suzuka was more perfunctory than the hugs of many others on the grid.

Mercedes will be hoping for a change in season fortunes at Sunday’s Mexico grand prix

Verstappen (centre) claimed a first world title amidst controversy at last season’s final GP

Freed, perhaps, by having notched his first title, Verstappen has been a picture of assurance and speed that allowed him clinch the title with four races remaining.

Amid confusion, he was told after the race that the championship was his because of an arcane kink in the rules about how many points can be scored in an abbreviated race, such as the Japanese Grand Prix.

It made it a bit of an anti-climax, but it was always going to be given Verstappen’s mathematical advantage over all challengers that had stood for months. He simply hopped on his plane, with girlfriend Kelly Piquet and manager Raymond Vermeulen. A private jet for three. 

Job done. No party. That waited until after the race last week in Austin, Texas, when an ample sufficiency was enjoyed by all.

Verstappen (front) clinched his second world title at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka

Verstappen opened up on his inability to remain out of the limelight when out in public

Two consequences of success have been increased fame and more booing. The first he could live without, the second he is content to live with.

Verstappen said: ‘Fame was not anything I looked into when I was a kid. I never wanted to be known. I wish I could walk around and nobody would know me.

‘Actually before Suzuka, I went to Tokyo and was not recognised too much. It was amazing. I can hardly think of the last time I could do that in a major city.

‘People are always nice and I understand they want something from me. But from my perspective it would be nice to be left alone.

The Red Bull driver denied Hamilton (left) a first win of the season in America last time out

The booing was widespread in the States last weekend. Hamilton is more popular there and the sins of Red Bull’s cost cap breach were held against the champion. 

He was targeted with chants of ‘cheater, cheater’ as he attended a fan event before qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

‘It’s not like football and all the abuse in the stadiums,’ he said. ‘It’s probably just frustration that has built up among fans of their particular driver who is not doing so well, or they don’t like me.

‘I am not here to be liked and it’s not going to ruin my day. I am having a great time with my team. People can say what they like, but I am here to perform.’

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