Max Verstappen called Lewis Hamilton a ‘stupid idiot’ during a highly-charged flashpoint in practice for the US Grand Prix.
The Dutchman then raised his middle finger at his title rival after they went wheel-to-wheel down the main straight. ‘Ignore it,’ urged Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.
Clearly rattled, Verstappen, who leads Hamilton by six points going into the final six races, later aborted his programme because he was caught in traffic.
Max Verstappen (left) ran off the track coming off the final corner with Lewis Hamilton close by
The duo then wrestled for position on the track heading down the main straight in practice
‘I’m boxing,’ said the Red Bull star, who then pitted.
‘Let’s just get the long runs done here. I’m over these short runs.’
Verstappen ended the day eighth fastest due to his lack of running. His side-kick Sergio Perez set the pace, with Hamilton third best, a place behind his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Afterwards Verstappen, who was squeezed off track in his run-in with Hamilton, said: ‘We were all lining up to go for our laps, so I don’t really understand what happened.’
Bottas is taking a new engine that slings him down the grid and, more importantly, raises doubts over the reliability of Mercedes’ power in general. If Hamilton needs another new engine, it could drastically impact the outcome of the season.
Lewis Hamilton ended Friday practice with the edge over title rival Max Verstappen
Hamilton (above) ended a lively second session third fastest for Mercedes at the US Grand Prix
Another unknown factor is the Covid menace. Nobody testing positive would be allowed to race. Verstappen, who has not caught the virus so far and avidly wears a mask, said: ‘I try not to think about it too much. I cannot lock myself up at home all the time. If you get it, you get it, and you are super unlucky.
‘There are people that have been very strict about it and still got it, so I have to stick to doing what I have been doing.’
This race marks the first time since the 11th-hour cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix last year that journalists have been allowed in team motorhomes.
McLaren, always the most welcoming of hosts, offered beakers of wine and beer to celebrate the landmark breakthrough.
Their driver Lando Norris looked gloomy behind his mask. His eyes were sore as he struggled with fatigue and illness brought on by a serious cold.
Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez was fastest for Red Bull at the Circuit of the Americas
US GRAND PRIX – PRACTICE TWO
1 Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:34.946
2 Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:35.203
3 Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:35.310
4 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:35.360
5 Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:35.457
6 Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:35.561
7 Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:35.572
8 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:35.824
9 Sainz (Spa) Ferrari. 1:35.919
10 Giovinazzi (Ita) A. Romeo 1:36.138
11 Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:36.158
12 Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri 1:36.242
13 Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:36.376
14 Raikkonen (Fin) A. Romeo 1:36.558
15 Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:36.718
16 Tsunoda (Jpn) AlphaTauri 1:36.983
17 Schumacher (Ger) Haas 1:37.041
18 Latifi (Can) Williams 1:37.254
19 Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:37.490
20 Mazepin (Raf) Haas 1:38.026
He guaranteed that he will be OK to race, adrenaline being the mend-all therapeutic it is, but he admitted he was finding it tough to sleep against the six-hour time difference.
He was, however, pleased to be named, aged 21, in this week’s fans’ survey as the second-most popular driver in the world behind Verstappen, and favourite among the female audience.
Verstappen, hiding any joy he might feel at being be ranked so highly, joked: ‘My life is complete. It’s nice that they voted for me. I guess they like my driving style, and people perhaps appreciate that I am straightforward, honest, and I am just myself.’
Verstappen can be belligerent, too. He says it as it is. Timo Glock, the former Toyota journeyman whom Hamilton passed in dramatic circumstances to win his first world title in 2008, suggested last week that the Dutchman would have punched the British star after their collision in Monza, for a second time this season, had he been a few years younger and rawer.
Bottas (left) topped the morning timesheets with Max Verstappen (right) only a distant third for Red Bull during the first practice session before falling to eighth in the afternoon
Would he have?
Verstappen added: ‘I do get older and more experienced but I don’t necessarily think I would have punched Lewis before.
‘Nobody likes to get together in the race but sometimes these things unfortunately happen. They have in go-karting and in F1.
‘We all have low moments with someone, but we are human beings and we can move on. We can forgive.’
That was prior to practice.
Hamilton will hope his Friday form carries over to the rest of the weekend
US GRAND PRIX – PRACTICE ONE
1 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1: 34.874
2 Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:34.919
3 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:35.806
4 Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:36.334
5 Sainz (Spa) Ferrari. 1:36.508
6 Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri 1:36.611
7 Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:36.798
8 Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:36.855
9 Giovinazzi (Ita) A. Romeo 1:36.874
10 Raikkonen (Fin) A. Romeo 1:36.876
11 Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:36.966
12 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:36.970
13 Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:36.972
14 Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:36.982
15 Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:37.068
16 Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:37.458
17 Latifi (Can) Williams 1:37.463
18 Tsunoda (Jpn) AlphaTauri 1:37.954
19 Schumacher (Ger) Haas 1:38.866
20 Mazepin (Raf) Haas 1:42.239