By Alan Baldwin
SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has suggested triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton sometimes hides his real feelings about driver safety because he wants to appear ‘cool’.
The Mercedes driver has criticized moves to introduce a ‘halo’ cockpit head protection system next season and also mocked rivals for ‘moaning’ about the track at Azerbaijan’s first race this month.
Verstappen, the 18-year-old who became the sport’s youngest winner in Spain last month, said Hamilton appeared to express other views in private.
“That what he says in the media but when he talks to his team it’s different,” the Dutchman told British reporters at the Austrian Grand Prix.
“In the media he’s saying like he doesn’t care. I had an incident in the driver’s briefing saying the (Baku) pit entry was quite tricky and he’s like ‘Oh, you shouldn’t bother about it’,” he said.
“But then Nico (Rosberg) jumped in and said ‘Wait Lewis, you just said you were getting (nervous) when you were always entering the pit lane. So what is this approach?’. Maybe he wants to be cool.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Rosberg, who won the race and now leads the championship by 24 points, had been one of those raising concerns as had 2009 champion Jenson Button, a former partner of the Briton at McLaren.
The long Baku pit entry, coming off one of the fastest straights in the sport, alarmed some drivers as did the lack of runoff areas where the track entered streets around the old walled city.
“These drivers, they moan so much about so many things,” Hamilton had said after going fastest in Friday’s free practice in Baku.
Verstappen, who has been skeptical in the past about cockpit protection systems and had a big crash in Monaco last year when at Toro Rosso, said he was “pretty much in the middle” when it came to safety.
“Monaco is not safe, but it’s really challenging you. But you go 290-300kph. In Baku you go 350, 360. I think we shouldn’t go much faster than that on a street circuit because it will be pretty dangerous,” he said.
“We are looking for safety, we don’t want to die on the track. It needs to be bit of a risk but…”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)