MANAMA, April 8 (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has accused Max Verstappen of lacking respect in trying to force his way past him in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Briton, who has spoken glowingly in the past of a 20-year-old he sees as a future champion, vented his feelings with some strong language after finishing third at the floodlit Sakhir circuit.
“There needs to be a certain respect between drivers,” Mercedes’ four times world champion told reporters.
“Maybe I need to go and watch the manoeuvre again, but it didn’t feel like a respectful manoeuvre.”
Verstappen had started 15th in his Red Bull, after crashing in Saturday’s qualifying, and dived down the inside of Hamilton into the first corner at the start of lap two in an attempt to seize 10th.
He took a wider line at the exit in what seemed like an attempt to head off any counter attack from Hamilton when the Dutchman’s left rear tyre made contact with his rival’s front wing.
Hamilton emerged unscathed but the collision punctured Verstappen’s tyre which eventually damaged his gearbox and forced him to retire from the race.
“If you look at it, I was actually ahead for quite a period of time,” Hamilton later told reporters after having gone through replays of the incident.
“Then I accepted defeat and I just backed out because I knew he was going to try and run me wide. But then he just kept going. He didn’t need to keep going ... because I had already backed out.”
Verstappen, who blamed Hamilton for the collision, has taken Formula One by storm since making his debut as a 17-year-old with Toro Rosso in 2015.
He is now seen as a champion-in-waiting whose speed, aggression and racecraft have won him many admirers but also led to run-ins with some of his rivals, most notably Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton was heard using a profanity in reference to Verstappen as he watched replays of the incident in the cool down room before the podium celebrations.
When asked about it later in the news conference, race winner Vettel, seated alongside, came to his title rival’s defence.
“We’ve all been in that situation, we fight someone, we go sometimes wheel-to-wheel, it’s close and you have a lot of adrenalin going. It’s a human reaction,” said the German, also a four times champion. (Editing by Alan Baldwin/Peter Rutherford)