Hamilton on Formula One title challenge: You have to be the smarter one

By Sports Desk November 24, 2021

Lewis Hamilton is aiming to be the "smarter" driver as he bids to outrun Max Verstappen in a remarkably close Formula One title challenge.

Hamilton is hunting a record seventh world title, but currently trails Verstappen by eight points heading into the final two races of the season.

The 36-year-old has won the last two grands prix, however, having followed up his triumph in Sao Paulo with success in Qatar last weekend.

Hamilton and Verstappen's contest has regularly boiled over onto the track, the former penalised for a collision at Silverstone, while the latter was punished at the Italian Grand Prix and was fortunate to escape a penalty for a near-miss in Brazil.

"Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that's what's going to happen," Hamilton told BBC Sport.

"So you always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because you want to see the end of the race, right? If you're stubborn and you hold your ground, you're going to crash.

"So that's what I've just tried to do. You can't always get it perfect.

"I am not too big or too successful to have to back out to fight another day. I know that is sometimes the route you have to take. You have to be the smarter one.

"And sometimes you lose points in doing that, for sure, but it's not just about me. I have 2,000 people behind me and through that selfish decision I could make. That costs all my team potential bonuses at the end of the year, all the hard work they have to do, the damage of the car. I am conscious of those things also."

Hamilton believes driving, and winning, in as pure a fashion as possible is the best way for him to prove his quality.

"It's just how my dad raised me," said Hamilton. "He said to always do your talking on the track.

"I was bullied as a kid, both at school but also on track, and we wanted to beat them the right way, not by a car falling off or colliding.

"Then, there is no denying that you're better. I want to be the purest of drivers, through speed, through sheer hard work and determination, so there's no denying at the end what I've accomplished."

Of Verstappen's aggressive approach, Hamilton said: "He's not the only driver I've raced against that's like this.

"I've raced so many drivers in my time and they've all been very different in the way they behave. And it's interesting.

"Now I'm older, I look a little bit deeper into their character and a bit of their background, upbringing. Our upbringing is why we act out the way we do and behave the way we do, good or bad. So I try to understand those so I can have more appreciation of who that character is I am racing with."

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    Fabio Quartararo lamented a "rookie mistake" after twice crashing at the Dutch TT to see the 2022 MotoGP title race blown wide open again.

    The Monster Energy Yamaha rider's lead over Aleix Espargaro at the top of the standings was cut from 34 points to 21 after failing to finish Sunday's race in Assen.

    After a near blemish-free season up to this point, reigning world champion Quartararo uncharacteristically clattered into Espargaro early on when pushing for second place.

    Both riders ended in the gravel, but whereas Espargaro was able to make up significant ground to finish fourth, Quartararo again came off his bike on lap 12.

    He lost grip on his rear tyre and was sent flying over his handlebars in a nasty fall, with this his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia 2020.

    Quartararo apologised to Espargaro immediately after the race, which was won by Francesco Bagnaia, and took full blame for the contentious incident.

    "I made a rookie mistake. I wanted to push too much from the beginning," he told Canal+. "I apologise to Aprilia and to Aleix for putting him out of the track.

    "It's with these mistakes that you learn for the future, but it was a really stupid mistake. We could very well have set a very good pace and fought for the win. 

    "These are mistakes that you learn from for the future. I wanted to restart and try to score some points, but I saw that the bike was a problem. 

    "I stopped, the team told me to restart in case of rain, but when I restarted, I could see that something was wrong.

    "I tried, but I don't know [what happened]. We have to analyse the crash, but I lost the rear a bit abruptly, so we'll see what they say. I made a rookie mistake."

    Despite seeing his lead cut, Quartararo still holds a healthy advantage at the top of the riders' standings heading into the five-week break.

    Espargaro produced the ride of the day – and one of the best individual rides of the season – to recover from 15th after being sent off the track by his title rival.

    The Aprilia rider overtook Jack Miller and Brad Binder on the final lap to finish just outside the podium places, but he could not make a serious dent in Quartararo's title lead. 

    "I was very strong in that place, and Fabio knew it," Espargaro said of the early collision. "The reason Fabio did his movement is because his feeling with the bike is super-high. 

    "We saw it also in Germany, corner one with [the overtake on Bagnaia]. He's not a dirty rider, but his confidence is that high.

    "Today, it's not that he was arrogant. But because he felt super, a lot faster than the rest, he made a bad judgment.

    "I knew this could happen. From this moment I said to myself – Fabio is almost perfect, he made no mistakes during the season, so if he makes one mistake you have to profit."

    Ducati's poleman Bagnaia led from the start to move back to within 66 points of Quartararo with nine rounds to go.

    The Italian, who is fourth in the championship, now has three wins and three retirements in his past six races.

    Bagnaia never looked like relinquishing first place to Marco Bezzecchi, although he admitted to being "terrified" of a third DNF in a row when rain hit late on in the Netherlands.

    "Looking at the gap with Bezzecchi, he was always catching," Bagnaia said. "I had to push again, I had to open this gap again to be smarter and more calm again later in the race.

    "But then the rain came. When I saw the rain, I just slowed down a bit, but Bezzecchi was pushing again.

    "So, it was very difficult. I was terrified to crash again, so the main thing was to finish the race. It wasn't easy, but I tried to be smart, I tried to not push over the limit."

  • Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch TT Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch TT

    Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch TT, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

    Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, was not able to join his Ducati team-mate on the podium as he failed to catch Maverick Vinales – his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

    TOP 10

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 213
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

  • Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch GP Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch GP

    Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch Grand Prix, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

    Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    It was not quite an all-Ducati podium as Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, could not catch Maverick Vinales as he claimed his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

    TOP 10

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 213
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

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