LEWIS HAMILTON hits back after seeing Max Verstappen draw the first blood in their battle for the F1 crown.
Dutch perform a scintillating pole position loop was hailed by Red Bull boss Christian Horner as one of the best games of the year.
It was a far cry from his disappointment just seven days ago when he was on another flight – something even better. Jeddah’s request when he hit the wall on the last turn.
There’s another misstep here in the Abu Dhabi spotlight – a lockdown in Round One could turn out to be more costly in this championship.
It was innocent enough and happened in the unusually dramatic midsection of the qualifiers – but it went unnoticed by Hamilton, who knocked his opponent down.
There is controversy over whether Verstappen’s error was actually intentional so that he started Sunday’s race on a different set of tires than his.
“It’s fun to lock into Turn One,” Hamilton said. “It’s a plot but nobody’s locked it up in Turn One and if you do that it’s not a big deal.
“I think they did it on purpose, so they chose to continue on the soft tyres.”
Why could it prove so important? F1 rules dictate that drivers must start the race on the same set of tires they placed on the fastest lap in Q2.
Verstappen locks onto a set of medium, yellow-walled tyres, as he slips while trying to slow his Red Bull.
It caused a flat mark on his tire – as a result it would hinder his performance at the start of the race.
That means Red Bull is forced to swap him for a faster but less durable soft tire, with red walls.
So while he will benefit from better speed off the road, he could be drawn into the races by Hamilton as they are less durable and Verstappen will have to pit first.
It makes the race delicate as Hamilton and Verstappen will start the race on different strategies to demonstrate what will prove the strength of the two teams against each other.
However, Hamilton thinks he has chosen the right tire.
He added: “I hope we’re on the right track and time will tell, but if they have the deterioration we think will happen with the soft tyres, we’ll be in a good place.”
The pole position means good omens for Verstappen, as the last six winners of this race have started P1, the strategic board game that promises to be very exciting.
As for Hamilton, he was another swipe at Verstappen said that he really likes to start BEHIND Dutch.
He quipped: “I’m still in the front row, we’ve got the difference between the tires and I’m grateful I can see where he is.”
References to theirs arguing come together in Monza, where Verstappen passed his Merc crest, or perhaps their recent duel in Saudi Arabia.
Despite missing pole, Hamilton was content with finishing second but fired a shot at teammate, Valtteri Bottas.
He also said he feels tactically using Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to outlaw Verstappen.
It’s hard to agree with Brit, who has ironically benefited from past tactics in which one driver sacrificed to benefit the other of the slide.
In this case, the Mexican pulled off a perfect slingshot around the Ninth Wheel in Verstappen’s flying ring that helped him win the pillar.
“That first run was very good, a nice pull and well executed,” Verstappen said.
“Whatever that gap, I could have grown by a tenth by the time I turned nine, which is not a straight stretch.
“However, Checo [Perez] was a great teammate, a real pleasure to work with, so a big thank you to him. “
Hamilton, however, said the practice should be stopped and added: “We never really did that.
“I like Valtteri’s focus on … we work as a team and Valtteri needs to do the best in his job to get both of us as good as possible.
“It’s never something we discuss or we work on and I don’t believe it should be done.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton, who was booed after qualifying after qualifying by orange-clad Verstappen fans, said he would use the taunts as “fuel”.
And he says he is feeling “a million times better” than when he last fought for the title on the final day of the season – back in 2016 when he lost to Nico Rosberg.
He said: “I feel]a million times different. It’s a very different scenario. Totally different and I feel a million times better now than then. I feel good.
“It’s not something I particularly want to get into. I’m just in a different place in life than I was in 2016
“[I’m] facing different resistances in life and this time i am in a different place and much happier. “
When asked if he is a better driver now than when he was up against Rosberg, Hamilton added: “Yes. And teammates.”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/17011757/lewis-hamilton-max-verstappen-tyre-conspiracy/ Lewis Hamilton hints at Max Verstappen ‘CONSPIRACY’ tire as title rival ‘deliberately’ locked in front of Abu Dhabi pole