LEWIS HAMILTON says Max Verstappen DELIBERATELY locked up in qualifying as part of a title decider ‘conspiracy’.
The Dutchman took a scintillating pole position lap hailed by Red Bull boss Christian Horner as one of the best of the year.
It was a far cry from his disappointment just seven days ago when he hit the wall at the final turn on another flying lap.
But the small lock-up – in the unusually dramatic middle section – could have huge implications in this weekend’s thrilling championship battle, Verstappen now set to start in Abu Dhabi on different tyres to Hamilton.
And it did not go unnoticed by Hamilton, who seemed to accuse his rival of ruining his tyres on purpose.
Hamilton said: “It was interesting that lock-up into Turn One. A conspiracy but no one locks up into Turn One and if you do it is not a big one.
“I think they did it deliberately so they chose to go on to the soft tyre.”
Why could it prove so crucial? F1 rules state that drivers have to start the race on the same set of tyres they set their quickest lap in Q2.
Verstappen’s lock-up came on a set of medium, yellow-walled, tyres, as he slid while trying to slow down his Red Bull.
It caused a flat-spot on his tyre – the upshot was it would hamper his performance at the start of the race.
It meant that Red Bull were forced to swap him on to the quicker but less durable soft tyre, with the red walls.
That means Verstappen will likely benefit from better pace off the line.
However he could be reeled in by Hamilton in the race as they are less durable and Verstappen will have to pit first.
It leaves the race delicately poised as Hamilton and Verstappen will start the race on different strategies in what will prove to pitch the two team’s at each other.
“I think they did it deliberately so they chose to go on to the soft tyre.”
Hamilton however, thinks he is on the right tyre choice.
He added: “I hope we are on the right one and time will tell, but if they have the degradation we think will happen to the soft tyre, we will be in a good place.”
Pole position means the omens are good for Verstappen, as the last six winners of this race have started P1, the strategic game of chess promises to be captivating.
For Hamilton, he took another swipe at Verstappen saying that he actually prefers to be starting BEHIND the Dutchman.
He quipped: “I’m still on the front row, we’ve got the difference between the tyres and I’m grateful I can see where he is.”
The reference was to their controversial coming together in Monza where Verstappen went over the top of his Merc, or perhaps their recent duel in Saudi Arabia.
Despite having missed out on pole, Hamilton was nonetheless pleased with lining up in second but did fire a shot at teammate, Valtteri Bottas.
He also said he felt Red Bull’s tactics of using Sergio Perez to give Verstappen a tow should be outlawed.
It is difficult to agree with the Brit, who has ironically benefited from the tactic in the past where one driver is sacrificed to give the other the benefit of slipstream.
In this instance the Mexican performed the perfect slingshot around Turn Nine of Verstappen’s flying lap that secured him pole.
Verstappen said: “That first run was very nice, and a nice tow and nicely executed as well.
“Whatever the gap was, I might have gained a tenth towards turn nine, which is not a massively long straight.
“Nevertheless, Checo [Perez] is a great team-mate, a real pleasure to work with, so a big thank you to him.”
Hamilton, however, said the practice should be stopped and added: “We’ve never, ever really done that.
“I like Valtteri to focus on…we work as a team and Valtteri needed to get the best job done for himself to have both of us as high up as possible.
“It’s never something we discuss or we work on and I don’t believe it should have been done.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton, who was booed after qualifying by the orange-clad Verstappen fans, said he would use the jeers as “fuel”.
And he said he is feeling “a million times better” than when he was last fighting for the title on the final day of the season – back in 2016 when he lost out to Nico Rosberg.
He said: “I feel] a million times different. It’s a much, much different scenario. Completely different and a million times better I feel now than I did then. I feel good.
“It is not something I particularly want to go into. I am just in a different place in life than in 2016
“[I’m] facing different resistance in life and this time I’m just in a different and much happier place.”
When asked if he is a better driver now than when he battled with Rosberg, Hamilton added: “Yes. And teammate.”
Helmut Marko Denies Abiteboul-Red Bull F1 Rumors as He Backs Former Mercedes Chief
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko denied any rumors of former Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul joining the Red Bull team as the head of the engine project. Notably, Abiteboul was present in the Red Bull garage during the 2021 season finale. Speculations were on the rise instantly that he might make his F1 return soon with the former rivals. However, Marko categorically denied any such scenario.
The newly rebranded Alpine team relieved Abiteboul of his responsibilities at the end of the 2020 season.
2018-19 footages of Cyril arguing with Red Bull boss Horner over lack of power in Renault engines are still fresh in the minds of F1 followers. Naturally, it surprised many to see the Frenchman in Red Bull’s garage owing to their tumultuous relationship.
After a few days of that incident, Cyril admitted to being present in the former rival’s garage during the season finale. But as per Marko, it had nothing to do with him joining the team’s engine project. Notably, Red Bull has taken over their engine needs after Honda decided to leave F1 after a championship-winning season.
In a recent interview reported by SoyMotor, Marko dismissed the rumors calling it “nonsense.” “I really don’t know where this nonsense comes from. It’s absolute nonsense. Ben Hodgkinson is and will continue to be the leader of our engine project. We hope he can start working as soon as possible,” said the team advisor.
After two decades at Mercedes, Ben Hodgkinson moved to fierce rival Red Bull. He will head the engine project for the team as technical director. He will be in charge of all technical decisions as far as Red Bull’s engine project is concerned. Hodgkinson’s focus will be on the development of Red Bull’s first power unit to meet the new Formula One regulations scheduled for 2025.
Max Verstappen’s Lewis Hamilton comments labelled ‘arrogant’ by Mick Schumacher
MICK SCHUMACHER has taken umbrage with the notion that anyone would have a chance at the Formula 1 title if they were driving for Mercedes.
The son of legend Michael called F1 titleholder Max Verstappen “arrogant” for suggesting as much after old quotes from the Red Bull star recently resurfaced.
Verstappen, 24, has shared a rivalry with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in recent seasons and finally ended his wait for a maiden championship in December.
He even suggested that “90 per cent” of F1 drivers would be capable of winning with a Mercedes-built car, appearing to discount the talents of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
“No, I’m not frustrated about that,” Verstappen told the official F1 websiteLink at the time with Mercedes having already wrapped up the Constructors’ Championship and Hamilton well on his way to a seventh world title.
Lewis Hamilton’s Strange Silence Has Some Wondering If He’s Quitting F1
Seven-time champion and Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton could be poised to stun the F1 community, possibly by sensationally calling it a career.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is one of those hearing the rumors and is reportedly set to meet to discuss the matter with new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
“No, I don’t think he will (retire),” Ben Sulayem, who has replaced Jean Todt, said when asked about the rumors.
However, Ben Sulayem added that Hamilton is not currently responding to messages.
“I sent him messages,” the new top boss at the FIA said. “I think he’s not ready now to be functioning 100% and you don’t blame him for that.”
Indeed, seven-time world champion Hamilton is not only maintaining total radio silence for now, he has unfollowed the official Formula 1 Instagram account. Hamilton, normally active on social media, has not posted to his Twitter account to his 6.9 million followers since December 11—the day before the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.