Lewis Hamilton fears he is on a collision course with Max Verstappen because his championship rival has a “lot to prove”.
Formula One’s two title protagonists will lock horns on the streets of Monte Carlo this weekend for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ Hamilton holds a 14-point advantage over Red Bull’s Verstappen after winning three of the opening four rounds.
The two rivals came within millimetres of contact at the opening corner of the last race in Spain – and they have traded positions at least once in all of the four grands prix this year.
“I’ve done well to avoid all the incidents so far,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got 19 more races to go and we could connect, but hopefully not.
“There is a nice balanced amount of respect between us. Perhaps he feels he has a lot to prove and I’m not necessarily in the same boat there.
“My mentality is that it is a marathon not a sprint which is ultimately why I have the stats that I have. So I’ll continue with that and I’ll do everything to make sure that we avoid connecting.”
Hamilton claimed his 100th pole in Spain and is now just two victories shy of the same landmark. The seven-time world champion won on F1’s last visit to the principality in 2019, holding off Verstappen in the closing stages.
But the unique Monte Carlo layout usually favours Red Bull and Hamilton expects Verstappen to reduce his championship deficit.
“Red Bull were incredibly close two years ago and they are going to be very, very hard to beat this weekend,” the Briton said.
“This is a track that has always been strong for them and, given how close the gap is between us, you can imagine they could be ahead. But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that’s not the case.”
The Monaco race was absent from last year’s Covid-disturbed calendar for the first time since 1954.
But Hamilton is predicting a procession on the sport’s return, with overtaking notoriously difficult around the slow two-mile street course.
He added: “There is almost zero opportunity to overtake but that has been the case for some time and in my opinion it needs to change.
“It is the best venue and the most beautiful place that we get to race at, but you know it is not going to be exciting for the fans.
“It is a one-stop race and, on the list of difficult places to overtake, it is off the scale, highly unlikely and you don’t get an opportunity to do so. I don’t think fans enjoy that.
“I don’t know what the solution is but I am hoping when we move forwards it can be a more exciting race for people.
“It has been an exciting start to a season where you are seeing people overtaking and the whole field close up but you are going to see a train on Sunday and fans already know that is what is going to happen.”