Lewis Hamilton has said he will not be drawn into mind games against his Red Bull rivals during his attempt to secure his eighth Formula One world championship. The British driver, speaking before the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, was reacting to the announcement on Thursday that Red Bull had poached a further five members of Hamilton’s Mercedes team to work for their new engine division.
Red Bull recruited Ben Hodgkinson as technical director of their new Powertrains department two weeks ago. He had been head of mechanical engineering at Mercedes High Performance Powertrains, has worked at the team’s engine department in Brixworth for 20 years and is seen as a crucial part of the team’s seven consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
Red Bull announced on Thursday that they had also appointed five other senior Mercedes staff to join their engine department. The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, said: “We know that success will only be achieved by bringing in the best and brightest talent, by providing them with the right tools and by creating the right environment in which they can thrive.”
Hamilton is in a closely fought battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, leading by eight points after three races. He did not believe this represented a success for Red Bull at his team’s expense. “I don’t have to focus on these things, I am really not about the whole psychological battle people like to have,” he said. “It’s interesting to see it from the outside, the little squabbles that people are having but I am about trying to be the best that I can be.
“It’s not something that I put any energy towards. There is all this stuff going on in the background but I have the best ally in [the team principal] Toto [Wolff] working to manage it in the best way possible. Without doubt every individual in our team is amazing, it’s not a surprise that everybody will want them.”
After a report this week that Mercedes were intending to replace Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, with the Mercedes junior and Williams driver George Russell midway through the season, Hamilton also reiterated his faith in Bottas.
“From what I have experienced from the relationship I have had with Valtteri he has been an amazing teammate. We have the best lineup currently in terms of deliverables, in terms of the equilibrium in our team and the general knowledge in moving our car forward.
“At some stage it is going to shift, it is going to change. I am not going to be here for ever, Valtteri won’t be here for ever but right now we have delivered time and time again over the years and we continue to do so. Valtteri just qualified on pole [in Portimão] and it’s only the fourth race, I think people need to give him a break and focus on what he is doing.”
Wolff has dismissed the reports that Russell would replace Bottas mid-season as “nonsense”.