‘He is ruthless, I am’: Is the rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton dead?

Lewis Hamilton lost the 2021 title to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, under highly controversial circumstances.

It’s somehow already been two years since Lewis Hamilton’s and Max Verstappen’s rivalry ignited into life at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, with it having been a taste of what was to come throughout 2021.

Close racing, collisions, controversial decisions, 2021 was the year and the rivalry that had it all, but was it a one-year wonder?

Since the “manipulated” ending of the 2021 season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Verstappen capitalised on a ‘human error’ by former race director Michael Masi, the duo have been in completely different leagues.

Both in 2022 and so far in 2023, Verstappen has been at the front with only team-mate Sergio Pérez for company, whilst Hamilton has been in the middle of the top 10.

READ: Max Verstappen, not Lewis Hamilton, will win 8 F1 world championships

Their on-track avoidance is largely due to how remarkable a job Red Bull have done since the introduction of the new aerodynamic regulations, whilst Mercedes have made a complete mess of it.

Off-circuit the pair have often played down any rivalry or feud between them despite what happened in 2021, with Verstappen having gone as far as admitting that himself and Hamilton have “a lot of respect for each other”.

“I don’t think we have a difficult relationship at all. It is quite straightforward. It’s just that with others you have a closer relationship,” Verstappen told The Daily Mail.

“It depends to an extent on how you live your life, and perhaps we are not similar in that regard. Of course, we had a big rivalry in 2021 but ultimately we do have a lot of respect for each other.”

Article continues below

Hamilton spoke in similar fashion ahead of the 2022 season, where he admitted that “things are normal” between the pair.

“Me and Max, we see each other in the paddock, and things are normal,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 ahead of last season.

“We have a lot of common in a sense of how much we love doing what we do and driving, then on the other side we’re ruthless. He is ruthless, I am.”

Despite their polite remarks towards each other, signs of their rivalry were present last season, most notably when Mercedes had a competitive package.

Hamilton and Verstappen had some questionable words for one another following last season’s British Grand Prix, where the Mercedes driver and Charles Leclerc had a great fight at Copse Corner, the spot where Hamilton and Verstappen collided in 2021.

“What a great battle. [He’s] a very sensible driver, clearly a lot different to what I experienced last year,” Hamilton said after last season’s British GP.

Verstappen hit back by joking that it was “quite nice” to see that drivers can “still learn how to hit an apex” despite their age.

“I think it’s quite nice that, at 37 years of age, you can still learn how to hit an apex,” Verstappen responded.

READ: Max Verstappen will continue to ignore team orders

“He is learning, so that is positive. It is also good for younger drivers to know that you are still learning when you are 37 years old. You can clearly see in the footage what was different compared to last year.”

Their back-and-forth exchange at Silverstone and their collision at the Brazilian Grand Prix was evidence that a rivalry is still present between the duo, but that it solely depends on Mercedes being competitive.

With this in mind, a new concept for the W14 could be exactly what F1 needs to reignite one of the most ferocious rivalries in modern F1 history, if it elevates Mercedes back to the front.