Hamilton: I want to be the "purest" of F1 drivers

Lewis Hamilton thinks it essential he is the "purest" driver he can be, so there can be no doubts about his achievements in Formula 1.

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Amid a tight championship battle that has boiled over at times into collisions between himself and rival Max Verstappen, Hamilton is clear that how he wins is just as important as achieving his goals.

In a wide-ranging interview with selected media, including Motorsport.com, Hamilton said that keeping it clean was something he valued strongly, even though many other greats in the sport have not followed that mantra.

"It's just how my dad raised me," said Hamilton. "He said to always do your talking on the track.

"I was bullied as a kid, both at school but also on track, and we wanted to beat them the right way, not by a car falling off or colliding.

"Then, there is no denying that you're better. If you have collisions, they can say, 'oh, yeah, but this happened, this is one tactic that that driver has.'

"I want to be the purest of drivers, through speed, through sheer hard work and determination, so there's no denying at the end what I've accomplished."

Verstappen battles

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Hamilton's belief about keeping it clean comes against the backdrop of him battling the super aggressive Verstappen, who has shown himself not to be afraid of pushing things to the limit.

The pair famously collided at the British and Italian Grands Prix, and there was recent controversy over Verstappen's behaviour in forcing Hamilton wide as they disputed the lead in Brazil.

Asked about he approaches racing someone like Verstappen, who isn't afraid to get his elbows out, Hamilton said: "You just have to be very, very wary. More wary than ever before.

"Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that's what's going to happen. You always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because at the end of the day you want to see the end of the race, right?

"If you're stubborn and you hold your ground, you're going to crash. So that's what I've just tried to do. I've tried to make sure I avoid the collision.

"I think I've been pretty decent at it in most scenarios. You can't always get it perfect, but then there's other drivers you drive with who are aggressive and respectful in different ways.

"But he's not the only driver I've raced against that's like this. I've raced so many drivers in my time and they've all been very different in the way they behave. And it's interesting. Now I'm older, I look a little bit deeper into their character and a bit of their background, upbringing.

"Our upbringing is why we act out the way we do and behave the way we do, good or bad. So I try to understand those, so I can have more appreciation of who that character is I am racing with."

Avoiding a collision

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Hamilton has gone out of his way at times this year to avoid collisions with Verstappen, most notably at the first corner at both Imola and Barcelona when he opted to bail out to avoid a coming-together.

But he denies that backing off has been a sign of weakness, nor that his collision with Verstappen at Silverstone was triggered in any way with trying to prove a point that he was not a pushover.

"If you're on the outside of a car, backing out is the sensible option pretty much all the time, in order to see the end of the race," explained Hamilton.

"If you're on the inside, there are scenarios where I truly believe I was in the right. I'm almost wheel to wheel with the car.

"At Silverstone, for example, go and look at the footage: my front wheel was alongside his front wheel, so it wasn't like my wheel was next to his rear wheel going in. And in that scenario, if I had taken the approach (Max did) for example [in Brazil], just stayed on the gas and gone off track and then kept position, what would the scenario have been there? Would they have looked into the rules there?

"I am not too big or too successful to back out to fight another day. I know that is sometimes the route you have to take. You have to be the smarter one.

"Sometimes you lose points in doing that, for sure, but it's not just about me. I have 2,000 people behind me and, through that selfish decision I could make - 'No, I'm going to hold my ground' and don't finish - that costs all my team potential bonuses at the end of the year, all the hard work they have to do, the damage of the car. I am conscious of those things also."

Hamilton also thinks that one factor in the difference of approach he takes is that the younger generation have been brought up amid higher safety standards at tracks – which means they aren't afraid to go off track into asphalt run-off areas.

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"What I would say is the drivers today, the younger drivers, the tracks the drivers today have grown up on, they all have the big run-off areas," he said.

"Whereas when I started in cars, most of the tracks hadn't got to that point, which was more fun, more risky and you had to drive more, not going over the limit always.

"You had to really build up to it slowly, whereas their generation can go way over the limit and go wide and come back on track. There is less penalty to pay. That's the only real difference.

"But they seem super-driven. We know we have more drivers today that have come from wealthier backgrounds than working class backgrounds than ever before, that's nothing new. But I think we have a pretty decent pedigree of drivers coming through."

No animosity

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

While Hamilton and Verstappen have clashed on track this year, and are locked in such a close title fight, the pair are not openly hostile off it.

Hamilton does not think such a situation is unusual, as he points out that their different approaches when racing could be linked to them being at very different stages of their careers.

"Look, I've raced against people who've shown something on one face but actually it's something different," he said.

"I'm 36, I've been doing this a long time, so it's not the first time I've been faced with a driver that's been good and bad in certain ways. I think I'm in just a much better position to be able to handle that, to deal with that. Particularly in the limelight and the pressures of the sport.

"I know that he's a super-fast guy, and he's going to get stronger and stronger as he matures over time: which he will no doubt do.

"Look at myself when I was 24 or 25. Jeez, the mistakes I was making back then.

"I had the speed, but I was going through a lot of different experiences outside the car and also being in the limelight, the pressures of being at the front. I don't think I did much right then, so I don't hold that against anybody."

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