Lewis Hamilton set to fight back against Max Verstappen in

By Laurence Griffiths

BBC Sport at Spa

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton exchanged words on the track as the Briton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships.

Hamilton led from pole before failing to catch Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who took the honours after overtaking the Mercedes.

Verstappen was furious with the Briton and was at the wheel of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari when their cars collided at the French Grand Prix last Sunday.

Reigning world champion Hamilton said he would ask the FIA if there would be any action over the German’s conduct at Spa.

Hamilton described the Verstappen incident as a “dogfight” as the Dutchman fought for second place on the final lap.

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his victory with Max Verstappen on the podium

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate, fellow 20-year-old Ricciardo, led into the tight and fast Abbey corner and cut across into the inside, forcing Hamilton to take evasive action.

Red Bull appeared to be trying to nudge Hamilton off track, although no move was quite executed.

Hamilton protested, but was allowed to stay in his position by the stewards, while Ricciardo was sent off the track after he clamped Hamilton’s front wing to give the defending champion a puncture.

The stewards also handed Verstappen a 10-second penalty for the incident and he lost a lap that he did not need when he suffered a gearbox failure with nine laps remaining.

Hamilton said he regretted “any part of the issues last week” which led to him having the best car but the least pace this weekend.

“They were my race – I had no reason to change and I was the quickest,” he said. “It just hasn’t quite worked for me this year, but there is a lot of racing to be had.”

At the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo criticised Lewis Hamilton

This weekend, he must try to make sure his Mercedes works better for him than it did at Spa, where he started fifth and slipped to 12th by lap 11 before coming home 10th.

“I believe it is the competitive teams that make the difference. The wrong result could damage you and send you on a downward spiral,” he said.

“Lewis and Sebastian have been on a run for many years. These are guys I am not in a position to beat.”

But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the drivers should be able to manage their emotions as Verstappen has a mature “head of a 16-year-old boy” and “respect what he does”.

“For the past four years, we have been second every race, in fact finishing third 13 times. We have never challenged the top teams in the race,” Wolff said.

“I do not agree that Daniel and Lewis are getting within that gap. If there are two better drivers and they both achieve the same result, then we all lose in a sense.

“However we have not been able to provide the performance that we have been capable of providing and the competition for the drivers has made it very clear that is not the case.”

Hamilton said “the team were right to take some points back” from Red Bull after Ricciardo’s clash with Vettel “to put us where we wanted to be” but he did not feel he had lost significant ground.

He is, he believes, just 0.7secs off Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 wins and 172 poles, but hopes to boost that performance next season, and the years after that, with a strong car under new regulations for the 2021 season.

Media playback is not supported on this device Mansell was agonisingly close to a record

“I just want to bring it back to the level it was when I first started,” he said. “I’m just trying to get a bit further so I can get closer to that pace of the midfield and overtake.”

Hamilton has four world titles so far, ahead of Vettel on four, and he is regarded as the leader of the pack.

However, this season’s performance may push him further behind – to third behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – and he is not discounting the possibility of losing his title by a lesser margin next year.

Wolff added: “I think it is very much open. We have now another race and we have the advantage of running a different car [in that position].

“Our aim is to make sure we are competitive and then through the two or three races we have in the US and Canada and at the next races we can start to think about different possibilities of raising the level

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