LEWIS HAMILTON furiously lashed out at rival Sebastian Vettel and urged him to sort things “face to face”, an unearthed account showed.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s rivalry is back and as tense as ever. The pair went wheel-to-wheel in Friday’s second practice session as tensions threatened to boil over ahead of the United States Grand Prix. Verstappen yelled “stupid idiot” over the radio and incredibly gave Hamilton the middle finger. Red Bull driver Verstappen holds a six-point lead over his Mercedes compatriot with six races remaining on this year’s Formula One calendar
Sergio Perez topped the standings at an intriguing second practice session for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, two tenths faster than Lando Norris in second and three tenths ahead of Hamilton in third
Verstappen finished down in eighth, nearly a whole second adrift. Hamilton and Verstappen’s feisty rivalry is far from the only one the Briton has had in his time on the track
In a remarkably impressive career, he has gone wheel-to-wheel with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg.
One such row left Hamilton demanding he and Vettel sort things like “men” outside the car – and the pair almost came to blows. In the Azerbaijan Grand Prix four years ago, Hamilton was leading the race, sitting behind the safety car just before the restart, when Ferrari driver Vettel drove into him.
Vettel believed Hamilton had braked deliberately, causing the collision, and the German pulled alongside and swerved into the Mercedes car. Hamilton, who finished the race in fifth, one place behind Vettel, furiously responded: “Driving alongside and deliberately driving into a driver and getting away scot-free pretty much — he still came away with fourth — I think that’s a disgrace.
“I think he disgraced himself today, to be honest. “If he wants to prove that he’s a man, I think he should do it out of the car face to face.”
He accused Vettel of putting him at risk, and admitted things could have been “a lot worse” had the drivers been going faster. Vettel, in Hamilton’s eyes, was setting a horrendous example for the millions of children watching both in the stands and at home.
He continued: “Imagine all the young kids that are watching Formula One today and see that kind of behaviour from a four-time world champion.
“I think that says it all.” Vettel, despite insisting that he was not at fault, received a 10-second time penalty for dangerous driving. He responded: “I didn’t run into the back of him on purpose.
“I damaged my wing, I think he had a little bit of damage as well. “Nothing that would have impacted on the race. It’s just not the way to do it.
“I think it was very clear. In the end, we’re racing as men. I don’t have a radio to him.” He felt that Hamilton should have also received a penalty.
Hamilton completely rejected any claim he had deliberately braked to cause the collision, and said “some people don’t like to own up to their mistakes”.
He added: “When times get tough, true colours show.” F1 legend and non-executive chairman of Mercedes Niki Lauda warned tensions would boil over at some point.
He said: “I don’t understand. He is crazy. Lewis will hit him one day. “Not with the car but with the fist.”
Hamilton ultimately won the 2017 F1 Championship quite easily, finishing with 363 points, 46 ahead of Vettel in second.
He faces a much tougher battle to win the 2021 Championship, although the Austin circuit has been something of a Hamilton stronghold for the last few years.
The Briton will be expected to come out on top this weekend, but faces a bigger challenge at the higher altitude races in Mexico and Brazil, where Verstappen will surely come out all guns blazing.
Qualifying begins at 10pm on Sky Sports Main Event, with coverage starting at 9pm. The race itself begins at 8pm on Sunday, with coverage on Sky Sports F1 from 6:30pm.