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“We never try to crash, do we?”

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“Avoiding contact, I think it goes both ways. So we have done well, that’s true. But yeah, we race hard, we avoided the contact both sides,” says Max Verstappen

Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen overtakes Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton at the start of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix race at the Circuit de Catalunya on May 9, 2021 in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

MAX VERSTAPPEN pushed back on Wednesday against suggestions he and Lewis Hamilton were sure to collide at some point, and that he had something to prove in the Formula One championship battle.

McLaren boss Zak Brown said last week the rivalry could create a chance for his team because “it is just a matter of time until both are determined to not let up into turn one and neither come out”.

Red Bull’s Verstappen and Mercedes’ seven-time world champion have gone wheel to wheel in all four races so far, with Hamilton winning three to the Dutch driver’s sole success.

Hamilton told reporters ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix that he had done well to avoid incidents.

“We’ve got 19 more (races) to go and we could connect, hopefully not,” said the Briton. “I think there is a nice balanced amount of respect between us … he feels perhaps he has a lot to prove. I’m not necessarily in the same boat there, and I’m more long-term ‘It’s a marathon not a sprint’ mentality.

“I’ll continue with that, and I’ll do everything to make sure that we avoid connecting.”

Verstappen said he had nothing to prove. “Avoiding contact, I think it goes both ways. So we have done well, that’s true,” he added. “But yeah, we race hard, we avoided the contact both sides. Let’s hope we can keep doing that, and keep being on track and race hard against each other.”

He bristled when asked about what Brown had said.

“I honestly don’t know what to say any more about these things,” he replied. “We never try to crash, do we? It’s just good to make a few interesting headlines like that.

“I guess it will have a bit more viewers when you say ‘It’s a matter of time’ instead of saying we had some great races so far.”

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel said those on the outside did not fully appreciate how fine the margins were, how easily things could go wrong and how well the top two were driving.

“Nobody wants to take the other car out or himself out, because the risk of getting it wrong is just so high,” said the German. “So far, they have done really well, and I think it shows the class that they both have.”

Meanwhile, Sergio Perez topped a practice session for the first time as a Red Bull driver as Formula One returned to the streets of Monaco yestersday after two years’ absence due to Covid-19.

The race, a highlight of the calendar, was cancelled last year due to the pandemic but has returned with 40% capacity in the grandstands and 7 500 ticket holders a day.

Practice is traditionally on Thursday in Monaco rather than the usual Friday, which is a rest day for Formula One.

Reuters