Hamilton hints at 'first title fight' pressure weighing on Verstappen


Lewis Hamilton remembers his first title fight in F1 as a "difficult and intense" affair and suggests the pressure could be "mounting" on Max Verstappen as the Red Bull charger finds himself facing his own first real championship challenge.

As a seventeen-time Grand Prix victor, Verstappen is obviously no stranger to winning in F1. However, for the first time in his scene-year career in the sport, the Dutchman is in contention for the world title.

Verstappen squandered over the summer two opportunities to score big points when he came together with Hamilton at Silverstone and more recently at Monza.

Hamilton, who conquered his maiden crown in his second season in F1, racing for McLaren, remembers the stress and weight that fell on his shoulders back in 2008 during his first banner year.

The seven-time world champion suggests that Verstappen may be feeling the tensions and burden that come with a first proper shot at the title.

"Obviously he won't admit to it, and I'm not going to make an assumption, but I remember what it was like when I had my first [title fight] and it definitely mounted up," said the Briton, speaking ahead of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix.

"It was difficult. It was intense. I was going through a lot of different emotions, and I didn't always handle it the best. And that's to be expected.

"There's a lot of pressure: you're working in a big team. There's a lot of self expectation and pressure because the desire to win is huge.

"So I empathise and understand that. But I know that we will continue to grow from this."

Hamilton alluded to experience as a precious ally when racing wheel-to-wheel with a fellow contender and to a driver's ability to pounce in the right spot and at the right time.

"We all have to be smart and know that there is a time where you're not going to make a corner, and it's all about making sure you live to fight the next corner," he said.

"And it's really kind of just through experience you find that balance, and you know that it's not all won on one corner.

"As I said, I know what it's like having your first fight for your first championship, and your eagerness. And you go through lots of different experiences and emotions during that time."

In Sochi, Hamilton reported that he was not suffering from any lingering neck pain following his spectacular run-in with Verstappen at Monza.

The Briton also dismissed comments from Red Bull's Helmut Marko who claimed that the Mercedes charger had exaggerated the extent of the beating he had taken during the crash.

"I don't really listen to what these individuals talk about," said Hamilton. "It's natural when a car lands on your head you're going to have some sort of discomfort.

"As I said, I definitely felt a bit of pain after the race, and then I said I was going to get it checked out.

"I worked with Angela [Cullen, Hamilton's physio] straight after the race and during the flight, and had check-ups the next day. Then we just worked on it through the week with acupuncture and everything.

"I didn't say I was dying. Of course, I was aware of the fact that in just a millisecond, anything can happen. And so I did feel grateful to come out of it not badly injured. We move on."

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