Christian Horner insists he holds no personal grudge against Lewis Hamilton

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Christian Horner talks to the media at the Hungary Grand Prix - GETTY IMAGES EUROPE
Christian Horner talks to the media at the Hungary Grand Prix - GETTY IMAGES EUROPE

Christian Horner insists he does not hold a personal vendetta against Lewis Hamilton after Mercedes accused Red Bull's senior management of smearing their superstar driver's name.

As Formula One gears up for its concluding race at a sun-cooked Hungaroring before the summer shutdown, the ramifications of Hamilton's 180mph collision with Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix a dozen days ago are still being felt.

On the eve of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix - less than an hour after Red Bull's petition to review Hamilton's penalty was dismissed by the Silverstone stewards - Mercedes called out their rivals for tarnishing Hamilton's integrity.

The Silver Arrows felt aggrieved by Red Bull's suggestions that Hamilton might have collided with Verstappen on purpose. Horner also claimed Hamilton put Verstappen's life on the line.

On Friday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: "We felt the comments made during and after the race, in written comments, and during the meeting with the stewards, were below the belt. There are certain boundaries we need to respect."

But in response, Horner said: "It was absolutely not a personal attack on Lewis Hamilton. He is a seven-time world champion, and everything he has achieved stands for itself. But even a seven-time world champion can sometimes make mistakes or misjudgements.

"The statement by Mercedes is a little bit antagonistic. I am entitled to an opinion, and if it was any other competitor on the grid we would have taken the same issue in the manner we did.

"Emotions were high. We had a driver taken to hospital for precautionary checks after an accident which would definitely have knocked out an average human being."

The Hungaroring, 16 miles outside of Budapest, will provide the stage for the next chapter of the sport's greatest rivalry in recent memory.

And it is a venue where Hamilton so often prevails as the master. Indeed, on Sunday, he will bid to become the first driver to win at the same venue on nine occasions, and the first to reach a landmark century of triumphs.

Lewis Hamilton at a press conference - SHUTTERSTOCK
Lewis Hamilton at a press conference - SHUTTERSTOCK

Mercedes and Red Bull are evenly matched, with Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas trading places at the top of the time charts in Friday's two sessions. Hamilton finished third, and then second, ending the day just 0.027 seconds behind his Finnish team-mate.

"To see Valtteri and I on the front row in terms of pace that is great for the team and we will only improve on that," said Hamilton. "It is a good start."

In all probability, Hamilton and Verstappen will occupy the same tarmac as they battle for supremacy in the 200mph charge to the opening corner on Sunday afternoon.

But despite being blamed by the stewards for their Silverstone collision, Hamilton sent a warning to Verstappen by telling his rival he would be prepared to make the same move.

Max Verstappen laughs next to Lewis Hamilton - PA
Max Verstappen laughs next to Lewis Hamilton - PA

Horner added: "It is inevitable that these two drivers will be starting within close proximity at the remaining races this season.

"But we have seen the outcome of the incident at Silverstone, and I hope it doesn't play a significant role in the outcome of the championship.

"Of course the rivalry will be intense. I hope that a precedent has not been set with what happened at the British Grand Prix."

Hamilton's controversial win at Silverstone provides him with the opportunity to head into the four-week break on level terms with Verstappen - an outcome which seemed unfathomable just a fortnight ago.

Wolff concluded: "Lewis is very robust and resilient because history has made him like that. We've spoken a lot, but (the crash at Silverstone) hasn't been a big part of our discussion.

"We know each other pretty well and our communication is often and transparent. At no time has there been any negativity around anything that could have affected him, or me. It didn't harm him."

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