It’s tough enough having to try and measure up to Lewis Hamilton every weekend without anyone who’s previously had to do it telling you just how difficult it is—just ask Valtteri Bottas. So when former F1 champ Nico Rosberg pointed out to Max Verstappen the gargantuan task he’s up against, the Red Bull driver wasn’t having any of it, reports The Independent.
Rosberg is, these days, a polyglot commentator for Sky F1’s broadcasts in German, Italian, and English, and generally really good at both giving insight and getting it out of drivers on a grid he still knows rather well. However, when Verstappen got asked by another journalist post-race on Sunday if he’d just learned how hard Hamilton is to take on, as Rosberg had theorized, he said he was already acutely aware.
Bottas had beaten both Verstappen and Hamilton to pole and after an early safety car at Portimao, the Red Bull was able to jump a napping Hamilton for second place. However, once Hamilton had warmed up his tires again he was able to harass Verstappen into an error that took the place back and let him hunt down Bottas for the win.
Verstappen’s response to whether it had been a lesson for him in beating Lewis Hamilton was, “Yeah, I don’t need Nico to make me realize how good Lewis is. I know he’s very good, otherwise, you don’t win so many championships.”
Verstappen actually mentioned that the lack of risk of colliding with Hamilton—meaning during a heated battle on the track—was Hamilton’s biggest quality as a driver and one of the reasons he’s so good to race against closely.
“It’s been really cool, especially when you race a driver when you know that you can go to the absolute limit, I guess you can trust each other to just race super-hard,” said Verstappen during the press conference. “I think that’s always really nice because you can see, in the three races we’ve had, it’s been really close to each other but predictable.”
“Lewis has never had something like ‘oh, we’re going to crash’ or something. I always have full trust in Lewis that we will give each other enough space,” he added.
The love is very much mutual, with Hamilton praising Verstappen’s ability to “pull everything out of” the Red Bull in order to battle with him and agreeing about the fairness of their competition.
“I think it is, naturally, down to respect and I think we’re both very, very hard but fair and that’s what makes great racing and great racing drivers and I think we will continue to keep it clean and keep it on the edge, but I don’t think either of us has a plan to get any closer [on track] than we have been,” said Hamilton.
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