Lewis Hamilton said he will refuse to be drawn into a ‘childish war of words’ with Max Verstappen after the Red Bull driver’s victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s triumph on the streets of Monte Carlo took him to the summit of the Formula One standings for the first time in his career after Hamilton, hampered by a poor Mercedes strategy call, finished a lacklustre seventh.
Red Bull also took charge of the constructors’ championship.
In the build-up to the fifth round of their spellbinding title battle, Hamilton lit the touch paper in his rivalry with Verstappen by claiming the Dutchman has a lot to prove.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner then stuck up for his driver by suggesting Verstappen is getting under Hamilton’s skin – and in the moments after dancing his way to victory on the sport’s most famous streets, Verstappen signed off his press conference by saying: “Actions always speak louder than words. That’s a good lesson after this weekend.
“You only have to talk on the track and that is what I like. We as a team so far made the smallest mistakes. That’s why we are ahead.”
Responding to his rival, Hamilton said: “I am not playing mind games. It is interesting what Christian comes out with but I couldn’t care less. They did a great job this weekend and that’s that.
“There are 17 races to go. I’m not going to say more. It’s childish when you start getting into a war of words.”
Verstappen, who started from the front after pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was ruled out of the race following a mechanical failure, led virtually every lap on his way to a crushing victory here in the principality.
Hamilton pointed the finger at his team after losing two positions during the opening round of pit-stops.
Hamilton was already facing an uphill task after qualifying only seventh. He was then the first of the leading pack to stop for tyres on lap 29 of 78, but he emerged from the pits in eighth, and then saw both the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez re-join ahead of him after they changed for rubber several laps later.
“I don’t understand, guys,” said Hamilton on the radio. ”I saved the tyres to go longer and we stopped before everyone.”
Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington then had to deliver the grim news that Perez was also ahead of him. “Sorry about that,” he said.
With overtaking largely impossible on the narrow Monte Carlo streets, Hamilton was unable to make any impression on Pierre Gasly.In the closing stages, he stopped for a second time to take on fresh rubber and claim a bonus point for the fastest lap before finishing almost a lap down on Verstappen.
“It was not a great weekend but I don’t feel like I am dwelling on it,” added Hamilton, now four points behind Verstappen. “There is a lot we could have done better in terms of our preparation.
“We had some good conversations through the weekend but it is not good enough from all of us and we don’t take it lightly.
“But there is no point getting depressed about it. We have to look at the data and find out why we are in this position.
“Naturally, we all want answers within the team and I know everyone will be working flat-out so this weekend doesn’t happen again.
“We have showed time and time again that we can bounce back so I am not too emotional at present.”
Verstappen’s path to glory was effectively sealed when Leclerc retired from the race before it had started.
Ferrari elected not to change the Monegasque’s gearbox following his 110mph crash in the closing seconds of qualifying on Saturday.
The decision ensured Leclerc escaped a five-place grid penalty, but it backfired after he reported problems immediately upon leaving his garage.
“No, no, no, no, the gearbox, guys,” said a slowing Leclerc over the radio as he emerged from the tunnel.
He made it back to the pits but was unable to take up his grid slot after Ferrari identified a left driveshaft failure.
Leclerc, raised in an apartment which overlooks the start-finish straight in Monte Carlo, appeared on the brink of tears as he was told his race was over.
Ferrari chairman John Elkann tried to console the Monegasque at the back of the garage.
Verstappen kept Valtteri Bottas at bay on the short run down to Sainte Devote and never looked like losing the race, crossing the line 8.9 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz with Britain’s Lando Norris a fine third for McLaren.
On a miserable day for Mercedes, Bottas retired from second after the Finn’s front-right wheel was jammed on during his pit-stop.