Sky Sports F1's Nico Rosberg said Max Verstappen is "starting to understand how good Lewis Hamilton is". Verstappen responded after Portuguese GP; Verstappen and Hamilton speak about "respect" and "trust" after another wheel-to-wheel battle
Monday 3 May 2021 17:07, UK
Max Verstappen has responded to Nico Rosberg's comments about "how good" Lewis Hamilton is, while also explaining that it's "really cool" that the two 2021 F1 rivals "trust" each other after another feisty but fair wheel-to-wheel battle at the Portuguese GP.
Hamilton, after slipping to third early in Portimao's Sunday race, capitalised on a small Verstappen error to overtake the Red Bull, before a similar pass on Valtteri Bottas helped him on his way to a second 2021 win in three.
Afterwards, Sky Sports F1 pundit Rosberg praised a "phenomenal" race from Hamilton - his former team-mate and fierce title rival - while also stating: "I'm a bit amused because Max Verstappen is starting to understand better and better how good Lewis Hamilton is.
"He needs to do everything perfect to beat him in the championship and at the moment it's two-one to Lewis."
Verstappen, who sealed second place and is now eight points behind Hamilton in the standings, responded in the post-race press conference.
"I don't need Nico to make me realise how good Lewis is," he said. "I know he's very good, otherwise you don't win so many championships."
They went wheel to wheel for victory at the end of the Bahrain GP. They made contact on the first lap in Imola. And on Sunday, Hamilton and Verstappen were involved in another head-to-head duel on track.
This time, Hamilton came out on top as, after being overtaken by Verstappen following the Safety Car restart, he took advantage of a Verstappen error to pass him using DRS a few laps later.
Both battles were clean, with the early 2021 title protagonists explaining how much respect they have for each other.
"Yeah, it's been really cool," said Verstappen. "Especially when you race a driver, when you know that you can go to the absolute limit, I guess you can trust each other to just race super hard.
"I think that's always really nice because you can see in the three races... it's been really close to each other but predictable. Lewis has never had something like 'oh, we're going to crash' or something. I always have full trust in Lewis that we all give each other enough space."
Hamilton has said in the past how he treats Verstappen differently in wheel-to-wheel combat, but the seven-time world champion agreed with his young rival on Sunday.
"I think it is naturally down to respect and I think both very, very hard but fair and I think that's what makes great racing and great racing drivers," he said.
"I think we will continue to keep it clean and keep it on the edge but I don't think either of us has a plan to get any closer than we have been."