(Reuters) – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen hit back at Mercedes on Sunday after winning the Monaco Grand Prix to take the Formula One championship lead.
“Well, first of all, actions always speak louder than words,” the Dutch 23-year-old said when asked how important it had been to beat Mercedes at the most glamorous circuit on the calendar.
“I think that’s a good lesson after this weekend. You have to talk on the track, that’s what I like.”
After five races only four points separate Verstappen from Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton in what is shaping up to be one of the closest-fought title battles for years.
There has been needle between both teams’ management while Hamilton was suspected by some of mind games after suggesting in the build-up that Verstappen maybe had “something to prove”.
Hamilton, winner of three of the first four races, had also highlighted errors made by his rival and Red Bull that cost them dear.
On a day when Mercedes let the ball drop in the pits and lost the lead in both championships, Verstappen returned to that theme.
“We as a team so far made the smallest mistakes. That’s why we are ahead,” he said.
Hamilton laughed off the reaction later.
“I’m not playing mind games,” he told reporters with a laugh. “I couldn’t care less… we’ve had some good races also. It’s childish in the end when you start getting into a war of words.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said it was all part of the ‘entertainment factor’.
“It’s great, we have a fight between outstanding drivers and the championship has swung both directions. Things are being said that are good for entertainment,” said the Austrian. “This is action on the track and soap off the track”.
Verstappen and Hamilton had gone wheel-to-wheel in the previous four races but there was no chance in Monaco, with Verstappen alone on the front row after Ferrari pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was unable to start.
Hamilton was way back in seventh on the grid, where he finished.
Verstappen was never troubled from start to chequered flag, finishing 8.968 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Asked how he felt to see his name at the top of the standings, the new leader was not about to talk things up too much.
“If it’s there at the end of the season that would be great, because there’s still a long way to go,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)