Horner: Verstappen has ‘nothing to lose’ in title fight against Hamilton

Christian Horner believes Max Verstappen has “nothing to lose” in the Formula 1 title fight this year, seeing no change in his approach despite the pressures involved.

Horner: Verstappen has ‘nothing to lose’ in title fight against Hamilton

Red Bull driver Verstappen is currently in his first F1 title battle, leading seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton by five points at the top of the drivers’ standings with eight races remaining this year.

Verstappen and Hamilton have collided twice this year while battling for position. Following a high-speed incident at Silverstone in July, both drivers retired at Monza two weeks ago after a clash at the first chicane.

The FIA stewards deemed Verstappen to be predominantly to blame for the collision, hitting him with a three-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton said on Thursday in Russia that he thought the pressure of the title fight could be mounting on Verstappen, reflecting on his own struggles during his maiden championship bid in 2007.

It was a claim Verstappen rejected, saying it showed that Hamilton “doesn’t know me”.

Red Bull F1 boss Horner was in agreement with Verstappen, saying he hadn’t seen any changes in the Dutchman under the pressure of an F1 title battle.

"I don’t see any change in him at all,” Horner said.

“He’s a young guy, he’s going for it, he’s got nothing to lose. He’s not sitting there with a bunch of world championships defending the title, he’s the challenger.

“That’s the way he’s attacking this championship, and when you see the pressure he was under with a home crowd in Zandvoort, you don’t get bigger pressure than that. I think the way he handled that in particular was truly impressive.

“He’s just really enjoying and relishing this battle. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been in a position like this. That’s exciting for him, and it’s exciting and motivating for the whole team.”

Verstappen and Hamilton have gone wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions this year, including on the opening lap at Monza when Hamilton backed out of an overtake at the Roggia chicane, avoiding an incident.

Asked if he thought Verstappen needed to back out of moves more, Horner said that all incidents were reviewed “very carefully” by the team and that Verstappen was “extremely self-critical”.

“He’s a hard racer, it’s part of his characteristic, it’s part of why he has the following that he does,” Horner said.

“You know that when he’s in the car, he’s going to give 110%. And I think that also has the impact on the driver that he’s racing, because they just know he’s going to go for it.

“But of course, there has to be measure. I think that at the right times, he has shown that measure. I think in different races even that we’ve seen this year.

“It’s part of the character that he is that he’s an attacking driver. It’s part of his make up. And I don’t think that’s going to change.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called Verstappen’s move on Hamilton a “tactical foul” in the immediate aftermath of the race at Monza, but said on Friday in Russia that “harsh moments” were inevitable in the title fight.

Asked if he thought there would be more collisions moving forward, Wolff said: “I think they pretty much know what they do.

“If they both wanted to avoid collisions, we would have less collisions. If they don’t avoid collisions, because they feel it’s right to not bail out or not give room, then we will have more.

“We are not sitting in the cars.”

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