Max Verstappen on Thursday hit back at his critics, including Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, saying their post-race comments in Mexico last Sunday proved that he was "in their heads". The Red Bull driver told reporters at a news briefing at the Circuit of the Americas ahead of this weekend United States Grand Prix that Mercedes' Hamilton had been "silly" and "disrespectful" in what he had said. Hamilton, who is set to win his sixth drivers' world championship this weekend, had answered questions about the Dutchman's on-track aggression by saying he treated him differently to other rivals and gave him extra room.
The pair had clashed on the opening lap of the Mexican Grand Prix and while Hamilton recovered to win the race, Verstappen went on to collect a puncture in a failed attempt to pass Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes before pitting.
He finished sixth after a thrilling drive through the field.
Verstappen objected, he said, to Hamilton saying he had been "torpedoed" by him.
"Looking at Turns One and Two in Mexico, I don't think that happened," he said. "I think, from my side, it is a bit of a silly comment to make because I think I always race hard, but fair, and I think it is just not correct.
"Of course, it's easy to have a dig at someone, but from my side, it's fine. It's always positive when someone talks about you because it means you are in their head."
He added: "I think that from my side, it shows already that I'm in their heads and I guess that's a good thing.
"I don't need to dig into other people in a press conference because first of all I think it's a bit disrespectful as well -- I prefer to fight on track, which I love to do.
"And, of course, I like to fight hard, but on the edge, otherwise - if they want me to stay behind -- it's better just to stay at home."
"I really want to take the fight to them because that's what we are here for - we are racers, we are in F1. I think we are the best out there and, yeah, we do fight for victories because that's what I live for."
Hamilton's comments on giving extra space on track for Verstappen were supported by Vettel. "Yes and yes, copy and paste!" he said. "It's true."
Verstappen has slipped to fifth in the drivers' championship since the European summer break in August without adding to his two earlier wins in Austria and Germany.