Not for the first time this season, the animosity between title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton has spilt over from the track and into the press conference room.
The pair exchanged jabs at each other ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, with Hamilton questioning whether the pressure of the title fight was beginning to get to Verstappen.
Max Verstappen shuts down Lewis Hamilton pressure claims
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton appeared ahead of the media on Thursday, at the first race since their instantly infamous collision at the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 14, 2021
Verstappen has rather roundly received the blame for the collision, which took both cars out of the race. It was one of the first mistakes the Dutchman has made all year and, despite being eliminated from the running, he still leads the championship by five points going into this weekend's Russian Grand Prix.
On Thursday, Lewis Hamilton commented on the collision, saying that Verstappen should have known when to give up on his attempted overtake and suggested that the mistake came from a lack of experience - after all, this is Verstappen's first ever title fight.
Hamilton was also asked about the incident and whether the pressure of that first ever championship battle was beginning to show signs of strain on 23-year-old Verstappen. He said:
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.
It was difficult. It was intense. I was going through a lot of different emotions and I didn’t always handle it the best. There’s a lot of self expectation and pressure because the desire to win is huge.
The two have come together on track on three occasions this year - minor contact at the first corner at Imola in April was a taster of what was to come. At July's British Grand Prix, the two collided spectacularly at the fastest point of the track, sending Verstappen out of the race.
Hamilton ultimately went on to win his home race, despite a ten second penalty for causing the crash. If anything, Hamilton has shown more signs of pressure than his Dutch compatriot this year, making similar errors at Azerbaijan and Imola.
Verstappen and Hamilton collide!
The title rivals come together at Copse, pitching Verstappen into a high-speed crash.
The Dutchman was able to walk away but he has been taken to hospital for precautionary checks#BritishGP 🇬🇧 #F1 pic.twitter.com/ol1s9dRJoa
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2021
When asked to respond to Hamilton's comments, Verstappen gave a sassy and defiant response, suggesting he is not interested in playing mind games with the seven-times world champion.
Yeah, I’m so nervous I can barely sleep. I mean, it’s so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it. Those comments, it just shows you that he really doesn’t know me – which is fine.
I also don’t need to know him, how he is. I’m very relaxed about all those things and I really can’t be bothered, I’m very chilled.
Lewis Hamilton has been there and done that with title battles, and he has proven in the past that he is not afraid to play mind games.
It seems, though, like Max Verstappen has no interest. We have an amazing final eight races on our hands.