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Max Verstappen public enemy No 1 and doesn’t care much for Lewis Hamilton – SQUIRES

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Max Verstappen will be public enemy number one at Silverstone today. He is the man who stopped Lewis Hamilton winning the world championship last season and in a seriously controversial manner.He is also the man who had to defend the indefensible in the build-up to the British Grand Prix as the de facto spokesman for Nelson Piquet. He will know whose backyard he is in alright. That much was clear from the frosty reception he received when he was introduced in practice.

This race is one of the highlights of the summer sporting calendar, a vibrant celebration of driver and machine. It mixes glamour and grit like few other events.

Partisanship is inevitable, welcome even but adulation for Hamilton should not spill over into vindictiveness for Verstappen.

The world champion does not need anyone’s sympathy and would not ask for it but the dogs need to be kept in their kennels.

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He may not be anyone’s idea of warm and cuddly but neither is he Dr Evil.

Verstappen was placed in the tightest of corners by the grubby attack on Hamilton by Piquet.

Given he is the father of the girl he is dating, one false step and he could have ended up either persona non grata or labelled a racist sympathiser. Little wonder he took his time with his response.

Verstappen was pilloried initially for his silence on the toxic topic of the moment but his take, when it came, revealed him in a thoughtful and measured light.

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He did not bury Piquet – how could he given the domestics of the situation? – but he offered some sage advice to the Brazilian. When it comes to the use of racist language – or language that could be translated in a racially derogatory way – button it.

Whatever your view of whether Piquet should be allowed into an F1 paddock again and Verstappen’s forgiving stance after his apology will not wash for many, he was clear on the main issue.

Racism is repugnant. It has no place in Formula 1 or society. End of story.

On a personal level it is pretty clear Verstappen does not care much for Hamilton and vice versa. In terms of personality, background and generation they are from different worlds. But there is a line and whatever the level of enmity, Verstappen had no difficulty in recognising it.

The 170mph collision between the two at Silverstone which put the Dutchman in hospital underlined the bad blood on both sides in their title battle last season.

Hamilton was blamed by the stewards and rightly so although it should be remembered that when the Briton tried the same move on the same corner later in the race Charles Leclerc moved aside.

Verstappen is a different racing animal to Leclerc but his single-minded approach has not stopped him developing genuine friendships around the paddock though. His relationship with his main title rival this season remains solid, as it is with other drivers he came up with like George Russell and Lando Norris.

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Verstappen is not out to fight injustice like Hamilton or save the planet like Sebastien Vettel, his world view is more limited.

He is on the grid purely to conduct the business of racing and to win but that should not count against him in the court of public opinion. When he was 24, Hamilton’s bandwidth was much the same.

With Mercedes diminished and Ferrari’s mishaps this season, a second successive title at Red Bull looks to be Verstappen’s for the taking with six wins in nine races. Hard to love he may be unless you are decked out in orange, but it is even harder to argue with the numbers.

Hamilton may have the home support today but respect – grudging or otherwise – is still due to the world champion.

Bad week – Andy Murray

It is unfair to expect too much of the old boy, what with his metal hip and all, but in what has been overall a decent Wimbledon for British players Murray missed the boat.

It did not help that he drew the ace machine that is John Isner but in his prime you can’t help feeling Murray would have found a way past him. He had never lost to the giant American – himself 37 – before.

The second round exit on Centre Court left him morose and miserable – just like the old days before the personality makeover.

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That was a good sign – it signified that he still cares and that he still thinks he can win at this level – but there will not be too many more Wimbledons for Murray.

With him in as good a shape physically as it gets these days it represented a frustrating chance missed.

Good week – Rugby League World Cup

Nadine Dorries’s cross-code gaffe gave this autumn’s tournament an unexpected – and unintended – publicity boost.

In one bungling blunder, rugby league’s problem cutting through at a national level was wiped away.

Everyone knows the women’s Euros and the Commonwealth Games will be staged in England this year but now, thanks to the Culture Secretary’s blunder, a much wider audience will also be aware there is a Rugby League World Cup coming too.

It will be fun too, in its slightly quirky way, with the likes of Jamaica and Greece joining the established powerhouses of the sport – Australia, Australia and Australia.

In fairness to Dorries there was a league seam running through that 2003 final she so fondly recalled. The two try-scorers – Jason Robinson and Lote Tuqiri were both former league players as were two other Wallabies starters Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers.

Unfortunately, much though Jonny Wilkinson loves his league, it was definitely 15-a-side.

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