Lewis Hamilton says he wants to win or lose the drivers’ championship in the right way, and not through a collision with Max Verstappen.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 12 points heading into this weekend’s Mexico City Grand Prix, with Red Bull expected to be strong at all three venues of the upcoming tripleheader. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was recently quoted as suggesting that if the title fight goes to the final round in Abu Dhabi then whoever is leading could well try and secure the championship through contact – citing Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna’s collisions – but Hamilton dismissed the notion.
“You know how I’ve won my championships in the past, I always want to win it the right way,” Hamilton said. “And if you’re going to lose it then you lose it the right way also, with dignity and knowing that you’ve given it your all, and you’ve done things the right way and you worked as hard as you could.
“That’s all you can do, is give it your all and work as hard as you can with your team. If it doesn’t work out, then you live to fight another day.”
Chasing his eighth drivers’ championship, Hamilton says that approach also comes from experience of previous battles and feeling he is now more of a role model at this stage of his career.
“It’s just I have been here a long time, I’ve learned a lot in my time,” he said. “And also I know Max hasn’t won a championship in a long, long, long time. So I know what it’s like going for your first championship – particularly in the sport – I know the pressures that come with that, and so it’s nothing less than I expected from him.
“Plus, he’s still a youngster and he’s going to be growing a huge amount over the next decade, which I think everyone will be excited to see. So I just try, if I can, to lead by example, because I know that I have a lot of youngsters – particularly that are racing – that are looking at what I do and what I say, and that’s important for me.”
Of more immediate concern for the defending champion is Mercedes’ performance in Mexico City, where he believes Red Bull is likely to have a clear advantage.
“Well naturally it’s up and down, right?” he said. “I can’t predict… we thought that we would be stronger, for example, in somewhere like Austin, (but) they were much stronger than us there, particularly in the race. Quite a bit stronger than us in the race. So I really can’t predict it.
“What I do know is (in 2019) they outqualified us here and they were down on power compared to us through the year. Now they’re ahead on power, there or thereabouts, and they’ve got a very strong car that has been affected less by the changes in the rules that we were affected by. So they’re going to be rapid this weekend, I think (in 2019) they were almost half a second ahead of us. Our car is not better than last year’s car, I would say, with those changes, so it will be interesting to see how we fare with them again this weekend.”