“We must take advantage of it” … The Hamilton-Verstappen rivalry, a blessing for motorsport?

And it goes on and on. It is not known whether Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are fans of Francis Cabrel, but Thursday in Sochi, at a press conference, the two top Formula 1 players have again poured oil on the blaze of their rivalry. Before the Russian Grand Prix, the 15th out of 22 in the season, each played their usual role, less than two weeks after their already legendary crash on the Italian circuit of Monza.

The image of the young Dutchman’s Red Bull riding his British elder’s Mercedes, saved from being crushed by the Halo protecting his cockpit, has impressed retinas far beyond the world of motorsport. Hamilton (36), seven-time world champion and current runner-up, played the wise old man: “I know what it’s like to fight for your first world title. For me it’s the tenth time [en quinze saisons]. I know the pressure and the experiences that go with it, so I can relate to it. “

Irony the Verstappen way

With the ardor of his 23 years (of which already 6 in F1 all the same), the championship leader for five small points, replied cheeky brat, “I’m terribly nervous, I barely sleep.” It’s so horrible to fight for the title. I hate that. “

Words which perfectly illustrate those of Franck Montagny, F1 consultant for Canal +, the broadcaster of the championship: “There is on the one hand a very thoughtful driver, who is used to this challenge and on the other a young wolf in a team which has already been world champion, and which does not want to miss its chance. It’s great and rare to have two drivers capable of fighting for the championship coming from two different teams. You should take advantage. “

Max Verstappen, young wolf with sharp teeth behind the mask. – Xavi Bonilla / AP / Sipa

Water and fire. Yin and yang. The opposition between the two men seems almost caricatural, like Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago in the fourth installment of the saga of Stallone. But it is the delight of the Formula 1 circus, already back in favor with the general public (and young people) through the clever policy of openness pursued since 2017 by its owner Liberty Media.

“One of the best duels of all time”

The CEO of F1 does not hide it besides: “We have one of the best duels of all time, let loose Stefano Domenicali after the incident at Monza, for which Verstappen received three penalty places. on the starting grid at the Russian GP. We have an “old” against a “young”, it couldn’t be better. »Obviously, with his statements relayed by the Nextgen-Auto website, the Italian invokes the manes of the history of the main discipline of motor sports: Hunt vs Lauda, ​​Prost against Senna, Schumacher against Villeneuve to name only the most famous rivalries.

The second, between the fearless French “Professor” and the Brazilian with a magnetic charisma, nailed millions of Sunday sportspeople to their sofas in the 80s and 90s. “The difference with that time was the media and the networks. social, judge Montagny, who himself made seven starts in F1 in 2006. It’s easy to slip, to fart a cable. I’m not too much on the networks, but there must have been a wave against Verstappen after Monza, as there was a lot of criticism, sometimes racist, against Hamilton when Verstappen came out at Silverstone. “

The Dutchman then ended up in the wall, then briefly in hospital, and the Briton finished on top of the podium in front of his home crowd, despite a penalty of 10 seconds. A sanction deemed insufficient by Red Bull who had filed a request, ultimately rejected.

“The stables are more of a moderator, however, Montagny believes. But they also use this rivalry. For Mercedes, if there is another victory in the world championship without challenge, it will be less followed. The world of F1 is not just a driver, an engineer, a mechanic, but a whole system behind, to exploit anything and everything to his advantage. This is why this sport is crazy. “

Can the situation get further out of control by the end of the season? Domenicali says he does not believe it: “The two pilots know what is at stake, I do not see any escalation, on the contrary. In any case, if there are new muscular explanations, it will probably not be in Sochi. Verstappen will start on Sunday from the back of the grid. In addition to the three-place penalty, the Dutchman received another after Red Bull’s decision to provide it with a new engine, Following the damage to Silverstone. Hamilton therefore has every chance of stealing the world throne from his fiery younger brother, at least temporarily.

Lewis Hamilton, rock star of the paddocks.
Lewis Hamilton, rock star of the paddocks. – Hasan Bratic / DeFodi Image / Sipa

The Englishman would then regain his favorite place, with a view to the absolute record for world crowns, which he currently co-holds with Michael Schumacher. “Today, the established champion, the king of the com, is Hamilton, exposes Montagny. But in his early days, he was not like today. In interviews, he didn’t talk too much, sometimes just answering “yes” or “no”, before realizing the importance of exercise. Verstappen will come there too. But for now, he wants to win. He sees that he can do it, so the rest, he doesn’t care. And the fans too.

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