Lewis Hamilton empathises with Max Verstappen – ‘I remember fighting for my first title’

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Lewis Hamilton says he has no interest in putting any energy into thinking about if he will crash with Max Verstappen again this season, and says he empathises with the Dutchman’s eagerness to win his first title this year.

The two title protagonists had their second coming together of the season at the Italian Grand Prix, with the 23-year-old deemed more at fault for the accident which ended both their races.

When asked ahead of the Russian Grand Prix how concerned he was that the two may clash again, the seven-time world champion said he had no time to ponder such things.

“I’m just not putting any energy towards that,” began Hamilton.

“I’m just focusing on literally putting all the energy to move forwards and, naturally we’re battling for a championship.

“I remember what it was like battling for my first championship and obviously I’m fighting for something like my tenth battle or something like that.

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“But I remember what it was like and I know the pressure that comes with it, and the experiences that go with it so I can empathise with that.

“I think what’s important is that we just continue to race hard but fair, and I have no doubts that we will both be professional and learn from the past.”

Hamilton is fighting for his eighth world title this season, whereas Verstappen hasn’t yet been part of a championship-winning setup.

However, the Dutchman has led the way for the first time in his career this season alongside Red Bull, who are after their first title since 2013.

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And the seven-time world champion insists he’s used to the rigours of being a title-chasing Formula One driver and says thanks to his experience that it’s much simpler to navigate.

Hamilton added: “Yes, it’s a lot easier to handle than the first one, but I’ve been here a long time so it’s much much easier to deal with it now and then, of course, in my first year.

“I was very young and didn’t have the tools to be able to handle that sort of pressures that were being put on me so it’s a lot different from me.”

Verstappen leads the way by five points heading into the Russian Grand Prix after neither scored any points on the Sunday at Monza.

But Hamilton did add his experience could edge him ahead in the title battle this season.

“Time will tell, I will hope so,” added the 36-year-old. “And of course it’s been an incredibly difficult year, It’s not been smooth sailing in terms of performance, as a team with the car and everything.

“I mean I hope so, and there’s been a lot of learnings in the course of these first 12 or 13 races we’ve had.

“So, yeah, I hope we see that moving forward.”

The tense championship battle continues on Sunday in Sochi, with Mercedes leading the way in the constructors by 18 points.

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