Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen rule out clear-the-air talks ahead of Abu Dhabi GP

Both drivers insist there is no need to meet up ahead of title-deciding race at Yas Marina Circuit

Lewis Hamilton, left and Max Verstappen during a press conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. Reuters
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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen ruled out clear-the-air talks before their showdown championship decider in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The desert air crackled with tension as Grand Prix racing’s two superstars sat only a metre apart in the final pre-race press conference at the Yas Marina circuit on Thursday.

Between them sat the magnificent silver Drivers World Championship trophy, dripping with history and etched with the greatest names in the sport’s pantheon.

But the duo did not even look at each other and there was certainly no handshake. Not even just for the cameras.

Two collisions at the last round only four days ago and two race ending smashes this year — one of which put Verstappen in hospital — have seen to that.

Earlier Hamilton had arrived at the circuit wearing a bright purple jumper with a giant expletive across the back but denied it was connected to the impending showdown.

Here it had been removed in favour of a black Mercedes T-shirt.

Amid accusations officials have lost control of the sport, race director Michael Masi had earlier warned the duo they could be kicked out of this championship — and perhaps even the next — if there are any dirty tactics on Sunday.

Such has been the mood that Hamilton, who branded his rival “crazy”, is himself walking a disciplinary tightrope. After two reprimands he is one slip away from a title-wrecking 10 place grid penalty.

“I don't think we need to sit down,” said Verstappen. “We are both here to win and we will do of course everything to win the championship ultimately.

“I think we have raced really well together the whole year and put on a great show. Hopefully we can do that again here.

Hamilton agreed: “I don’t think [we need to meet]. We’ve had lots of races, lots of good racces and obviously some incidents but I'd like to think, hopefully, we have learnt from these things and move forward.”

“I am here to do my job and I don't want to see the stewards any more than they need to see me.”

But hurt obviously still lingers. Verstappen ramped up the temperature claiming he is not getting the same treatment from the stewards as the Mercedes’ man.

“It is only me who gets punished and fighting at the front people are a bit more critical, I guess, but for me I don't understand,” he said.

“Clearly things don't apply for everyone because the things I did in terms of defending, two other guys did also and they didn't get a mention or penalty.

“Like I said, other people do exactly the same thing and get nothing.”

Teams arrive for Abu Dhabi GP

“It's not how it should be, not fair because it seems like other drivers can do different things, and it seems like only I get a penalty.”

“To be honest, the only thing I ask for is that it is fair for everyone and that is not the case at the moment.”

Verstappen and Hamilton go into the finale level on points — the first time that has happened since 1974.

If they crash out the Dutchman becomes champion on countback rules because he has one more win.

But increasing concern over the dangers led to Masi warning both drivers they could even be banned from more than one championship if they break the rules.

Ex-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had waded in, insisting Mercedes were “bullying” Verstappen to earn an edge in the title battle.

“Clearly he feels something is not right, I don't experience bullying but what is going on of course is not correct,” said Verstappen.

Asked if he had seen a different side of Hamilton as the tension has ramped up, Verstappen said: “Yes, very much so. And not in a positive way.”

Updated: December 10, 2021, 7:25 AM
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