Hamilton vs Verstappen: F1’s latest, great rivalry is simmering nicely
Hamilton vs Verstappen: no fire, but can we smell smoke?
The showdown that Formula 1 fans have been wanting for years is finally here – Hamilton vs Verstappen, the all-time great against the pretender to his crown. A rivalry which has been simmering under the surface for some time has finally boiled over, with clashes both on and off the track.
Verstappen was forced to give Hamilton the lead back in Bahrain after having passed him off track, before he got his own back by shoving the Mercedes aside at both Imola and Barcelona.
After several emphatic Verstappen wins, Hamilton struck back at Silverstone by indicating to his Red Bull rival that he wasn’t going to simply cede position going into Copse on the opening lap. The two connected –Verstappen in the wall while Hamilton won. This is where tensions truly began.
The Merc man celebrated wildly, having envisaged losing his title to Verstappen after the Dutchman’s winning run.
Now he was back in the fight and delighted, the relief washing over him.
The scenes weren’t received warmly in the Milton Keynes camp though, with Verstappen accusing his rival of a “dangerous move”.
“Watching the celebrations while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour, but we move on,” he seethed on social media.
Positions reversed at Monza, as Verstappen crashed into Hamilton. Red Bull was markedly more reserved in its reaction but it hardly helped relations.
While heat has steadily risen, compared to Senna vs Prost or Piquet vs Mansell, things have been a civilised tea party. The boys are a tad more professional these days.
Hamilton gives off an aura of zen-like calmness in press conferences, no doubt aided by seven world titles, but it’s also a form of defence –a type of insult to Verstappen that his challenge doesn’t even ruffle the feathers of the seasoned warrior. It suits the former’s ‘at-one-with-the-world’ image he’s adopted since his tumultuous early years.
His Dutch rival does the same but in a different manner – saying it doesn’t bother him one way or the other if he wins the title. Verstappen is simply a racing machine that exists to win, going race by race. But it would surely hurt if the 24-year-old couldn’t win the title during a season when he and his team have had the rest of the grid in its back pocket for most of the year.
What is certain is the if the contenders collide again before the season’s end, there’ll be harsh words from both sides – and the toxicity still will rise.