Lewis Hamilton has apologised to Max Verstappen in the buildup to the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend after their clash at the last round in Bahrain.
Verstappen had attempted to pass Hamilton last Sunday when the two came together, causing a puncture for the Red Bull driver, who was forced to retire. Hamilton went on to finish third and trails Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 17 points in the world championship standings after two races.
When Hamilton saw the incident before the podium ceremony in Bahrain he called Verstappen a “dickhead” and later questioned the maturity of the 20-year-old’s driving. Verstappen, in his third season in Formula One, was bullish when asked about it in Shanghai.
“It is quite simple and easy to blame the younger driver and that is the only way I can see it,” Verstappen said. “Why should I change something? I don’t think I did anything wrong in terms of my approach.”
Hamilton, who has spoken of his admiration for his younger rival’s talent and is 13 years Verstappen’s senior, said he had made a point of clearing the air. “At the fans’ signing session I shook his hand and said: ‘I am sorry about the last race,’” the four‑times world champion said. “It is good to show respect and regardless if I am the older driver – in fact it being more important because I am the older driver – I felt it was important that I went to him. If it was his fault or my fault, it doesn’t really matter as it is now in the past.
“Hopefully that sign of respect shows we can turn the page and move forward in racing each other.”
Hamilton said he would be more cautious about his post-race language in the future but stressed emotions run high in the moments after a grand prix. However he believes drivers showing the intensity of their reactions is a positive. “It is good in sport to see some emotion,” he said.
“If you go to a hockey game, they don’t mind that there are punch-ups. In Nascar races there are punch-ups too but if we had a punch-up here your career would be over.”
The British driver, who was buoyant and relaxed despite finishing second and third in the opening two rounds, admitted he had come close to exchanging blows while in F1. “I have. Yes. I am not going to tell you when it was. But I still feel today I should have and I wish I did. I so badly wish I did but the time passed and it didn’t happen.”