(Reuters) – Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said he would waste no time worrying about a collision with Red Bull rival Max Verstappen, a man he called crazy only days ago, ending his hopes of a record eighth title.
The Mercedes driver goes into Sunday’s season-ending decider in Abu Dhabi level on points with Verstappen but 9-8 behind on race wins.
That means Verstappen can be champion without needing to score another point if Hamilton also draws a blank at Yas Marina.
The pair have collided on track three times already this season.
“I don’t give it any energy,” Hamilton told reporters after appearing with Verstappen in a Thursday news conference with the championship trophy placed between them.
“We never thought we would be neck and neck going into the last race, we’ve had an amazing recovery collectively as a team… we don’t waste energy on things that are out of our control.”
Reminded that he had labelled Verstappen ‘crazy’ and ‘dangerous’ during last Sunday’s chaotic Saudi Arabian race, when he ran into the back of the suddenly slowing Red Bull, Hamilton played down those comments.
“When we are in the races we say all sorts of things,” he explained.
“We are in the heat of the moment, the adrenalin is firing, your emotions are on edge…I think ultimately us racing drivers we’re all a bit crazy to be able to do what we do and take the risks that we do.”
Asked if he trusted Verstappen to race fairly, Hamilton swerved.
“At the end of the day, I do believe everyone here racing comes to win,” he said.
“I would like to believe everyone wants to do it in the right way, so I don’t even let that creep into my mind.”
Hamilton said Sunday’s race was taking the team into ‘unmarked territory’, with Mercedes hoping to become the first to win eight successive constructors’ championships, but it also felt similar to the past.
“At the moment it just feels like another championship for me,” he said.
“I don’t look at it as a multiple. I always look at every season and every year as if you start from Ground Zero. You’re the hunter and you’re fighting from the moment you start training.
“I don’t consider myself the champion that year. I consider myself the one that’s fighting for the championship.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)