‘Ruthless’ Lewis Hamilton needs ‘nudges’ to beat ‘nice’ Max Verstappen ‘at his own game’ as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP


Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen staged one of the most thrilling Formula 1 championship battles of the last year and fans can’t wait to see them do it again.

Red Bull’s Verstappen clinched the title in the most dramatic of circumstances when he overtook seven-time champion Hamilton on the final lap of the season’s final Grand Prix.

The rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen has captivated F1 fans
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The dust has not yet completely settled on the controversial result which sparked debate from all F1 personalities.

But what has been said about the two rivals for the title ahead of what is sure to be another exciting year of track action? talkSPORT.com takes a look…


Lewis Hamilton

The seven-time world champion recently opened up about his relationship with Verstappen to insist they are both ruthless in their pursuit of success.

He said: “You have to be careful, the way people do drama, it creates a narrative for the fans – and for me and Max.

“See you in the paddocks, things are normal. We are just two riders and we know how much we love to drive.

“On the other side, we’re ruthless – that’s what you have to be – hopefully with a bit of compassion.

“We are fighters, there are no friends on the track. Some days we succeed, others we fail, but it is important that we maintain a certain respect.

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Hamilton remains positive but could face his toughest task yet
AFP

Max Verstappen

F1’s governing body, the FIA, has already made a number of different rule changes following last season’s controversy.

However, defending champion Verstappen told the BBC: “Sport doesn’t need to heal, there are those dramatic moments that are also part of sport.

“F1 is a very difficult world. I think Lewis can feel the pain a little less if you already have seven [titles].”

The Dutchman was also keen to stress that he doesn’t think the Abu Dhabi fiasco diminishes his title success in any way.

Speaking to the Guardian, Verstappen added: “Not at all. I had a really good season and I think I really deserved it.

“Me too, I was really unlucky. People always remember the last race but, if you look at the whole season, the championship should have been decided much earlier.”

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Verstappen begins title defense in Bahrain on March 18
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Sebastian Vettel

The Aston Martin driver dominated F1 for three years after his maiden title victory and warned Hamilton Verstappen could do the same.

“You start the season with less pressure because you have already achieved one of your dreams,” said the 40-year-old.

“From now on it’s more fun and you go into the races knowing that you’ve already won the world championship once.

“Of course you are still trying to fight for the second title, but there will be less pressure on Max.”

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Vettel has warned Verstappen will be brimming with confidence for the new season
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Martin Brundle

The retired F1 driver has urged Hamilton to change his racing style to counter Verstappen’s aggressive driving.

“I think Lewis will come back with more determination than ever and I think he’s going to have to stick his elbows out with Max,” Brundle said.

“Ultimately, Max’s aggressive driving won him the world championship as far as I’m concerned.

“Everyone will have to play Max at their own game if they want to beat him.

“Mercedes and Lewis will be stimulated by this, but they will have to race in a different and more aggressive way and play the same game, because Max will not change.”

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Hamilton and Verstappen were involved in a number of clashes last year
AFP

Christian Horner

The Red Bull boss is the one who can confirm Verstappen hasn’t been changed by what led him to success.

Horner told talkSPORT Breakfast: “He has this burning desire inside. He’s a real fighter. You know that when you put it in the car, it will give you 110%.

“Outside of the car, he’s just a normal boy. A nice guy who loves his sport, loves his football and also loves his games.

“He’s just a nice guy who doesn’t need a high-profile life and just loves what he does.”

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Can Red Bull and Verstappen win a second consecutive championship?
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Toto Wolf

The Mercedes team principal, however, believes Verstappen’s victory left “scars” on himself and Hamilton who will now be more motivated than ever.

“My reaction even then [when Verstappen crossed the line] was, “what just happened?” he said, as reported by the Mail.

“Max deserved to win the championship, but not this way. If you do a good enough job, you’ll win the race and here, that’s not how it was.

“The decision is wrong and it is clear that it will leave scars on myself, Lewis and the team.”

“Lewis had done everything necessary to win the championship and it was taken away from him,” added Wolff.

“There is nothing better they could have done to motivate us.”

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Russell joins seven-time champion and Wolff in fight for Mercedes success
YouTube – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team

Damon Hill

The legendary British driver believes his compatriot Hamilton is motivated and ready to reclaim his F1 crown.

He said: “Lewis talked about stepping down and licked his wounds and thought about what happened.

“It was interesting to see his words about never letting that happen again, which seems to suggest he still doesn’t accept that it’s an unfortunate outcome.

“Steps have been taken to ensure that procedures are followed more clearly and strictly and that seems to have convinced him that it is worth trying again.

“He looks mean. He’s driven. It’s in the nature of the beast, isn’t it?

“He is a rider, he will try to get this eighth title.”

'Ruthless' Lewis Hamilton needs 'nudges' to beat 'nice' Max Verstappen 'at his own game' as Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff discuss F1 rivals ahead of Bahrain GP
Hamilton and Verstappen controversially collided in Saudi Arabia
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Anthony Davidson

The former F1 star, who is also a simulator driver for Mercedes, believes Hamilton’s claim fans haven’t even seen his best last year.

Davidson told Sky Sports: “When Lewis Hamilton comes out with a phrase like that, you have to take it into account.

“He’s sure he’s ready to win this thing once and for all and I think he’ll be tough to beat.

“He certainly comes into this season with a very optimistic mentality.

“There will be nothing more Lewis wants from this season than destroying Max Verstappen.

“Let’s not beat around the bush, he feels completely stripped of what happened last year in Abu Dhabi, he wants to go out with a dominant car and he doesn’t even want to see Max on track, I am sure.

“He just wants to show her a clean pair of heels, fade away and win his eighth world championship.”

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