LEWIS Hamilton and Max Verstappen have shaken hands in a bid to draw a line under their clash in Bahrain.
Both drivers have blamed the other for their on-track collision in last Sunday’s race with Hamilton later telling reporters that Verstappen’s attempted overtake “lacked respect”.
But the world champion sought out his Red Bull rival after arriving in Shanghai for this weekend’s Chinese GP in order to bring their spat to a close.
Hamilton confirmed he and Verstappen had shaken hands at a fan-signing event at the circuit, with the Dutchman acknowledging the gesture.
“I generally do my talking on the track. Obviously after this incident I didn’t, but I just saw Max now,” said Hamilton.
“It’s always good to show respect and being that I’m the older driver, I felt it was important that I went to him. So just as we were signing just now I shook his hand and I was like, ‘Look, I’m sorry about the last race.’ Regardless of whether it is his fault or my fault, it doesn’t really matter. It’s in the past.
“Hopefully that sign of respect shows a lot and helps you move forwards racing each other. Hopefully it keeps respect between you because I think it’s important between drivers.”
Asked what Verstappen said in response, Hamilton replied: “I don’t really know because there was a lot of noise around us, but he acknowledged it.”
HOW THE ROW UNFOLDED — MAX’S ‘GREED’ TO BLAME?
Verstappen suffered terminal damage to his Red Bull after clipping Hamilton’s Mercedes when he attempted to pass the world champion at the inside of Turn One on the second lap of last Sunday’s race.
Both drivers said the other was at fault, with Hamilton saying the 20-year-old was making “inexperienced” moves and making too many mistakes.
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo was on the Brit’s side, saying his younger Red Bull colleague got too “greedy”.
“I think Max had the move (completed) already, I just don’t think he needed to run all the way to the kerb,” Ricciardo said.
“I think regardless Max would have stayed ahead, he was just a little too greedy.
“Even if Max had hung around the outside (through Turn 2) I just think Max would have had him regardless. He squeezed him a little too much in my opinion.”
Speaking on Thursday ahead of his handshake with Hamilton, Verstappen maintained the move was fair and he had not done anything “crazy”.
“It’s simple and easy to blame the younger driver. That’s the only way I can see it. There is no reason for me to change anything,” Verstappen said
“I might have a talk with (Lewis), it depends if it’s really necessary. Why should I change something? I don’t think I did anything wrong in terms of my approach. I was just trying to overtake a car and I think it was a fair chance. I went for it.
“That’s racing — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. You can say whatever you like about the incident. I had fair shot at it, it was nothing crazy, nothing risky but unfortunately this time it didn’t work out.
“Looking back, in Mexico last year it did work out, this time maybe we didn’t give each other enough space. That’s racing.”
HAMILTON PREDICTS POWER STRUGGLE WITH FERRARI
Lewis Hamilton has predicted another closely fought power struggle for Mercedes with Ferrari at this weekend’s Chinese GP.
The world champion has also warned the Scuderia’s straight-line speed will make the championship leaders particularly difficult to beat in Shanghai.
Defying pre-season predictions of a Mercedes walkover in 2018, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has won both of the year’s opening races.
Mercedes have won the last four Chinese GPs but Hamilton is wary of the extra horsepower the Prancing Horse have found this year.
“They are going to be hard to beat,” said the F1 reigning world champion. “Their straight-line speed in the last few races has been faster than ours and we have the longest straights here. So I’m anticipating they will be very, very fast and hard to beat.
“They are faster than us on the straights and as quick as us through the corners. Their engine program has really taken a big step this season. It will be interesting to see how their reliability will be — as it will be for Renault and us.
“This should be a good track for us but I think it’s going to be close.”
The story of 2018 at the front of the grid has been a marked contrast between the two opening rounds. While Mercedes held a clear pace advantage in Australia, Ferrari had the edge in Bahrain.
“I still believe we are the best team. We definitely have the potential to win races and to fight for this championship. But what’s important is that we all stay on our toes.
“We all need to be performing at our utmost and it’s even more crucial this year as it’s magnified because we are so close. Ferrari are really performing well — and both Kimi (Raikkonen) and Sebastian are performing really well — so l think it’s a tougher season than last year. Ferrari have got a very fast car and there are millimetres between us.”
Mercedes have spoken about the need to bring their “A” game to all races, while Hamilton has cited improved communication between pitwall and car to ensure they are maximising race strategy.
“I’m not hopeful, I know we will improve,” he said. “It’s not like it’s terrible, it’s just that we can improve and those improvements will help us win races.”
HAMILTON: ‘WAKE-UP CALLS’ NO BAD THING
Despite winning three of the last four world titles, Hamilton has only once held an outright points lead in the world championship standings after a season’s first two rounds since Mercedes’ rise to F1 power in 2014.
Hamilton, who trails Vettel by 17 points at the start of this year, is not sure why he has tended to play catch-up but says the lessons Mercedes have learned so far in 2018 will prove useful the longer the season goes on.
“It’s definitely not planned! If you look at Melbourne, performance-wise I was really happy with our performance up until the moment we lost the race,” he said.
“But it had been such a strong weekend and I’d been so on it with the best qualifying lap I’d done for a long time, then the strength in the race.
“I don’t know why that is we generally don’t start off the best. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we have wake-up calls within the group because it’s easy for us a humans to whether it’s be complacent, over confident or under confident, under expect or over expect. Just finding the right balance.
“You kind of stumble through the first few races and then find your ground and know what to do. It doesn’t matter how many races you do, that’s part of the racing process. If you be too aggressive, you lose a whole race and maybe lose more points than you should have. If you be under aggressive, you don’t get any points.
“I think we’ve been strong in those years and just getting a steady pace to start with. Would I like to start with a bigger blow? Yes. But that’s what we tried in Australia and we can across a scenario that we didn’t have the right execution for. We learnt from that and we take it onwards.
“But it’s still a second and a third — if you have that the whole way through the season then you’re in a good place to win the championship … (although) not when you’re behind Ferrari.”
— James Galloway, Jonathan Green, Pete Gill