Max Verstappen has hit back at Lewis Hamilton, calling the British world champion disrespectful for comments he made after winning the Mexican Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who is set to win his sixth title at this weekend’s US Grand Prix, opened the war of words with Verstappen by claiming that he affords the Red Bull driver extra room in the fear of being “torpedoed” following their first-lap altercation last Sunday.
“It was a silly comment to make,” Verstappen said on Thursday. “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 drivers’ world championship that will take him to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven.
A winner in five of his previous seven visits to Austin, Hamilton needs to finish eighth or better to secure the championship.
Before Verstappen’s comments Formula One’s American owner, 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 743kg to 768kg – a move Hamilton has criticised – while a new budget cap of £150m per team is also to be introduced to improve competition.
“This new measure has teeth,” the F1 motorsport managing director, Ross Brawn, said. “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 secured their sixth successive drivers’ and constructors’ titles this year, while no driver from outside Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull has won a race since 2013. The sport’s big three teams operate on a budget well beyond £300m.
Formula One bosses also emphasised the aim to stage as many as 25 races, up from the record 22 scheduled for next year. But the format of a grand prix weekend will change, with two shorter afternoon practice sessions introduced on Friday afternoon. The morning running will be abandoned.
“It doesn’t matter what the cars look like as long as we can race and follow better,” Verstappen said of the proposed changes. “Let’s see how it evolves over time.”
The Williams driver George Russell said: “The weight of the 2021 car will be heavier, which is not ideal. But as long as the new regulations improve the racing and bring the field together, that is all I am bothered about.”