Monaco Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen says this weekend has shown “actions always speak louder than words” in a likely reference to pre-race remarks from championship rival Lewis Hamilton.
On Wednesday in the build-up to the grand prix, points leader Hamilton had said he had done well to avoid incidents with Verstappen in their wheel-to-wheel fights so far and suggested Verstappen might have “something to prove” in battle.
Verstappen had retaliated the same day by insisting that was not the case and said he also deserved credit for the quality of racing between the pair over the first four events.
The exchange continued some off-track needle between the contenders as Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff had previously stressed that they had benefitted from Red Bull and Verstappen making errors and not maximising their opportunities.
But Verstappen and Red Bull have now jumped into the lead of both championships following his win in Monaco, a fourth place for Sergio Perez, and a miserable event for Mercedes in which Hamilton was a muted seventh and Valtteri Bottas retired after a pitstop problem while running second.
“Well, first of all, actions always speak louder than words,” said Verstappen when asked by The Race how important it had been to strike a blow against Mercedes at a track expected to suit Red Bull better.
“That’s a good lesson after this weekend. You only have to talk on the track. That’s what I like.
“We as a team so far made the smallest mistakes. That’s why we are ahead.
“So, I hope we can keep that going for the rest of the season.”
Hamilton brushed off the comments when they were put to him by The Race.
“I couldn’t care less,” Hamilton laughed. “They did a great job this weekend and that’s that.
“We’ve had some good races also. There are 17 races to go. I’m not going to [say more]. It’s childish in the end when you start getting into a war of words.”
The result means Verstappen now holds a four-point advantage of Hamilton and leads the world championship for the first time his career.
Red Bull has moved one point clear of Mercedes having trailed it by 29 points before the weekend.
Verstappen said leading the points mattered little at this stage but acknowledged the significance of turning the tide against Mercedes and Hamilton, who had won the last two grands prix.
“If it’s there at the end of the season that would be great because it’s still a long way to go,” he said.
“Of course it’s great to bounce back after the last two races where of course the gap got bigger.
“We still have to work hard because we know that Mercedes on normal tracks are still the ones to beat.
“But it was a good, smooth weekend overall I think. And this is a great boost for the whole team going forward.”
It was Verstappen’s second win of the season, after Imola – where Hamilton had been fortunate to get away with a huge mistake during the grand prix that should have left him a lap down, only to get that lap back because of a mid-race stoppage.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said it “was important to take our chances here”.
“Mercedes had a rare off-day and it was important to convert that,” said Horner.
“As a team we’ve done that, we leave here leading both championships for the first time in the hybrid era.
“Nobody’s getting carried away, there’s still an awfully long way to go in the championship.
“To be as close as we are at this stage is very encouraging.