Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, has claimed that Max Verstappen was in Sir Lewis Hamilton’s head during their 2021 title battle.
The pair tussled race after race for the world championship last year, and there were several bones of contention throughout the campaign.
Crashes in Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah marred what had been a fascinating watch, and the Brazilian Grand Prix saw drama throughout the entirety of the weekend.
In the end, a title battle for the ages was settled controversially, when now former race director Michael Masi, in Hamilton’s eyes, “manipulated” the Safety Car restart, allowing the Dutchman to claim his maiden world title on the final lap.
That night in Abu Dhabi was difficult for Hamilton and Mercedes to stomach, and that has not been helped by the fact that they are not in the title picture this year.
Instead, Verstappen has been battling with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and the pair have given fans plenty of side-by-side action, but thankfully, none of the additional aggression.
Horner feels that Hamilton resented his driver last season, which is why there was less respect between himself and Verstappen than there is between the reigning champion and Leclerc.
“You know, there’s a difference, there’s perhaps a different respect with Charles,” he said on the Beyond the Grid Podcast.
“They raced each other since [they were] kids, and there was a mutual respect. I’ve never once ever heard Lewis recognise Max’s ability.
“And so of course, there was just a bit more needle to it and you could feel that, and you could sense that between those two drivers.”
Last season was arguably a psychological battle at times, and the 48-year-old indicated that the crash at Silverstone was the result of a frustrated seven-time champion.
“I think arguably, maybe more so in Lewis’ head,” suggested Horner, when asked if the two drivers were in each-others’ heads.
“Because he’s the seven-time World Champion that has everything to lose, Max is the young kid that’s taking the risks, that’s throwing everything at it, and got nothing to lose.
“Some of his overtaking last year was stunning and you felt that started to rattle Lewis, I think.
“We definitely saw after Lewis qualified on pole at Silverstone and Max won the sprint race you saw Lewis, he was a bit broken after the sprint race.
“Had Max made it through Copse [Corner], I don’t think they’d have seen him again that afternoon, so there was an air of desperation building in as well.
“It was high stakes stuff and your emotions run high, but it probably affected Lewis arguably more than Max because, as I say, he’d got more to lose than Max. Max had everything to gain.”
With a 116-point lead in the championship, Verstappen looks all set to stroll towards his second world title in 2022.