With Max Verstappen on the cusp of claiming his second consecutive Drivers’ Championship, Christian Horner has revisited the Dutchman’s titanic 2021 battle with Sir Lewis Hamilton.
After an exciting opening few rounds of the season, 2022 has been somewhat disappointing in regard to a title fight; however, this is largely due to Verstappen having been completely dominant across the season.
The Red Bull driver has amassed a 116-point lead over Charles Leclerc, meaning he can wrap up the title at the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix.
It comes as no surprise that Verstappen has cruised to the title, given the fact he’s won 11 races this season.
Ferrari’s strategic blunders and reliability woes have also given the 24-year-old an advantage; however, the Dutch driver has also put himself in the right place to benefit from his rival’s struggles.
His partial championship battle with Leclerc has been a huge contrast to 2021, with the pair having shown respect to one another both on and off the circuit.
Horner puts this down to the fact that the duo effectively grew up together, with Verstappen and Leclerc having raced against each other “since kids”.
The top two in the standings are forever heaping praise onto one another, something that the Red Bull boss admits Hamilton “never” did.
2021 was a very different season, where Verstappen had his best chance of his first title, whereas Hamilton had an excellent chance at clinching a record-breaking eighth.
This was evident on the circuit, with the duo having collided on several occasions in what was arguably one of the greatest seasons in the sport’s history.
Respect between the Red Bull and Mercedes driver was clearly thrown out of the window, with Horner admitting there was “more needle” in their battle compared to Verstappen’s fight with Leclerc this season.
“You know, there’s a difference, there’s perhaps a different respect with Charles,” Horner said on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
“They raced each other since [being] 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 year’s battle arguably went over the limit, with both drivers having attempted moves and defensive tactics which should’ve been met with a penalty; however, it could be debated if Michael Masi’s approach allowed this style of racing.
The duo famously collided at Monza, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, with Hamilton labelling Verstappen “aggressive as hell” on Netflix series Drive to Survive, but the biggest incident between the two came at Silverstone.
Hamilton and Verstappen famously collided on the opening lap at Copse Corner, where Hamilton hit the rear of Verstappen whilst on the inside of the corner.
The blame is still being thrown around today, with supportive arguments for both cases.
The concurring 51G impact for Verstappen, which allowed Hamilton to go on and win the race after overtaking Leclerc, saw Red Bull become absolutely livid at the 37-year-old.
Horner still holds it against Hamilton for celebrating the victory whilst Verstappen was sitting in hospital, with the 48-year-old certain that Verstappen was in “Lewis’ head”.
“I think arguably, maybe more so in Lewis’ head,” Horner said when asked if the two drivers were in each other’s heads last season.
“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.”