Max Verstappen has hit back at Lewis Hamilton, calling the world champion “disrespectful”.
Hamilton, who is set to win his sixth title at this weekend’s US Grand Prix, opened the war of words with Verstappen after he took aim at the Dutchman’s driving in Mexico.
Hamilton claimed that he affords the Red Bull driver extra room in the fear of being “torpedoed” following their first-lap altercation last weekend. Sebastian Vettel was in agreement with the Briton’s remarks.
“It was a silly comment to make,” said Verstappen. “I don’t need to dig into other people in a press conference because it is disrespectful and I prefer to fight on track.
“It only shows that I am in their heads, and I guess that is a good thing. I am a hard racer, but fair, and it is just not correct (what Hamilton said).
“I like to fight hard but on the edge. If they want me to stay behind it is better that I stay at home.
“I want to take the fight to them because that is what we are here for. We are in Formula One, we are the best out there, and we fight for victories. That is what I live for.”
Hamilton, who arrived from New York in Austin on Thursday morning, is bidding to close out the championship that will take him to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven.
Hamilton, a winner in five of his previous seven visits to Austin, needs to finish only eighth to secure the championship.
Prior to Verstappen’s fiery comments, Formula One’s American owners, Liberty Media, outlined its vision for the future by unveiling the first images of how the cars will look in 2021.
The new machines are expected to be up to three seconds slower, but it is hoped they will encourage closer action. They will be heavier, increasing from 743 kilograms to 768 kilograms – a move Hamilton has been critical of – while a new budget cap of £150million per team is also to be introduced to improve competition.
“This new measure has teeth,” said F1’s motorsport boss Ross Brawn. “If you breach the financial regulations, you will be losing your championship so there are serious consequences.
“It is a turning point in Formula One. It will not be a smooth road, but it is an essential change to the future of Formula One. The teams needed saving from themselves because the budgets were going up every year.”
Mercedes have this year secured their sixth straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships, while no driver from outside Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull has won a race since 2013. The sport’s big three teams currently operate on a budget well beyond £300m.
F1 bosses also emphasised the aim to stage as many as 25 races, up from the record 22 already penned in for next year. The format of a grand prix weekend will change, however, with two shorter afternoon practice sessions introduced on Friday afternoon. The morning running will be abandoned.