Give Verstappen a break, says Hamilton

Fri Sep 2, 2016 5:05pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton has hailed Max Verstappen's stunning success in Formula One and called on those criticizing the Dutch teenager's driving to keep a sense of perspective.

"He has grabbed the opportunity with both hands... Firstly, give the guy a break, he is 18 years old. What the heck were any of us doing at 18?" the triple world champion told British reporters at the Italian Grand Prix on Friday.

"He has won a grand prix. The pressure on his young shoulders is something most people will not be able to comprehend."

Hamilton, who had a stunning Formula One debut of his own with McLaren in 2007 and on Sunday could become only the third driver to win 50 grands prix, said Verstappen had plenty to learn like any youngster.

But he said the man who became the youngest ever race winner in Spain this year on his Red Bull debut, and started on the front row in Belgium last weekend, was clearly an exceptional talent.

"I don't know what I would have been like at 18 on track, but I would have made lots of mistakes," said Hamilton. "I just see a young, talented kid who just seems to have an enormous amount of raw talent.

"At 18, the maturity hasn't caught up with your ability and that might go faster with some people or slower. Only time will tell."

Verstappen has been a breath of fresh air for the sport since he arrived as a 17-year-old with Toro Rosso last season but his uncompromising attitude and aggressive tactics have caused controversy.   Continued...

Formula One - F1 - Italian Grand Prix 2016 - Monza, Italy - 02/9/16 - Red Bull's Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during the first free practice.  REUTERS/Max Rossi