Hamilton has opened up a 14-point lead over Red Bull driver Verstappen in the championship after winning three of the opening four races this year.
Hamilton and Verstappen have gone wheel-to-wheel at points in all four races amid a close-fought start to the year, resulting in some hard but fair racing. Verstappen made an aggressive overtake into Turn 1 at both Imola and in Barcelona two weeks ago, with Hamilton saying after the latter race that he “made sure” to give enough space.
McLaren boss Zak Brown said ahead of this weekend’s race in Monaco that he thought it was a “matter of time” before Hamilton and Verstappen collided while fighting on-track.
But Hamilton said he was unsure if it was an inevitability, believing he had done well to avoid any incidents, and that Verstappen perhaps had more to prove.
“I don’t know, I think I’ve done well to avoid all of the incidents so far,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got 19 more to go, and we could connect. Hopefully not.
“I think the good thing is, I think there is a nice, balanced amount of respect between us. I think perhaps, as you know, he feels perhaps he has a lot to prove. I’m not necessarily in the same boat there.
“And I’m more long-term, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, sort of mentality. Which is ultimately why I have the stats that I have.
“I’ll continue with that, and I’ll do everything to make sure that we avoid connecting.”
Despite making his strongest ever start to an F1 campaign, Hamilton and his Mercedes team have faced arguably their toughest challenge in the past five seasons courtesy of Verstappen and Red Bull.
The team believed it was on the back foot against Red Bull following pre-season testing, but Hamilton said it had zero impact on his approach towards the season.
“I think every year, your goal is to extract absolutely everything,” Hamilton said. “There’s never a year where you arrive, whether you have two-tenths, half a second, negative or to [you], you’re never like, I’m going to give a little bit less,” Hamilton said.
“Every year you give absolutely everything, and sometimes, things don’t go as planned. You can be distracted by certain things. You don’t capitalise on opportunities, you may not be always as complete as you like.
“This year, that’s not necessarily the case. It started out the way I wanted. I’ve adjusted to the whole disruption of the pandemic, how to maximise. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, as I’ve had more time naturally to train and to work on the mental side and understanding the car.
“I think it’s just overall, I’ve raised the bar within myself, and that’s our goal as a team in order to do that.”