The Mercedes driver said that given Verstappen’s position as a first-time title contender, he had “sympathy and understanding” that he “had a lot of emotions with McLaren in 2007, and he didn’t always handle the situation in the best way then”.
When asked by Motorsport.com if he had any response to what Hamilton had to say when it was his turn at the official press conference before the Sochi race, Verstappen said: “These comments … I mean, they show he doesn’t really know me.”
“It’s OK. I don’t need to know it, I mean what it is all about.”
“But I just focus on myself, I enjoy racing at the front and of course I hope we can continue that for a long time.”
Verstappen’s career progressed rapidly in the junior racing categories, which meant he did not have a car capable of contending for the title after completing his first and only single-seater season in the European F3 Championship in 2014 when he finished third behind his future Formula One rival. One, Esteban Ocon, after joining the Queen class at the age of 17 with Toro Rosso.
He was promoted to the main Red Bull team after four races in 2016 and won his first race for the team in Spain, but the 2021 season is seen as his first chance to fight for the title.
Regarding the heated battle for his first F1 title, Verstappen, who became world karting champion before being promoted to F3, told Motorsport.com earlier this year that the higher junior racing classes of F3 “are the same. Roughly, you get to choose your battles.”
The Dutchman said he feels very calm about the new challenge he faces in 2021.
He joked: “I’m not so nervous I can hardly sleep! It’s awful to be competing for the title, I really hate it!”
“If someone really knows me, I think I’m very comfortable about all of those things and I’m not really upset,” he added.
“I’m very relaxed and that’s the best feeling when you have a great car that you get into every weekend and fight for the win. It doesn’t matter if you are top of the championship or not.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Photography: Motorsport Pictures