Red Bull’s Max Verstappen jokingly tried to put a price on helping sway the Formula One title battle between Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on Thursday but nobody was buying that one.
“I’m still negotiating with them, who’s going to pay me the most,” smiled Verstappen, sitting behind triple world champion Hamilton and championship leader Rosberg at a Brazilian Grand Prix news conference.
“So we’ll see, we’ll see on Sunday.”
In truth, the Dutch teenager — like his Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel — can be counted on to get stuck in as usual and let the championship rivals worry about the consequences.
Rosberg leads Hamilton by 19 points and will take the title with a race to spare if he wins at Interlagos on Sunday.
But if Hamilton were to win and Rosberg fail to score then both drivers would head for Abu Dhabi facing a winner-takes-all scenario.
The notoriously fickle weather at Interlagos, the pressure and the role of others determined to stand on top of the podium means nothing can be taken for granted.
Verstappen, only 19 but already famed for audacious overtaking moves and a hard-headed refusal to give way or be overawed, has been in several scrapes already this season while also winning on his Red Bull debut in Spain.
In Mexico 11 days ago, he and Rosberg banged bodywork on the opening lap as they jostled for position.
“Imagine you tell your team like ‘now I’m going to stay out of the fight, I’m just going to cruise round behind them.’ They wouldn’t be happy,” said the Dutchman when asked about his approach to the last two races.
Ricciardo said it would be wrong to treat the final rounds any differently to the rest of the year.
“Just because they are fighting doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try and make an overtake if there’s a door open. I’ll always race, I think, with respect but sure I’ll race hard…if there’s an opportunity to win, for sure I’ll go for it.”
Rosberg, who has won the last two Brazilian Grands Prix from pole position, said he accepted that.
“They’re not going to take it easy just because one guy’s fighting for the championship. He’s a competitor like everybody else and that’s completely normal for all us drivers to approach it in that way,” he said.