Max Verstappen has insisted that he doesn’t “need” his former rivalry with Lewis Hamilton to reignite, with the three-time World Champion stressing that currently when they’re away from the track “it’s like just normal guys”.
Verstappen and Hamilton’s titanic 2021 rivalry will go down in history as one of the greatest in Formula 1, with the pair having been quite literally inseparable ahead of the season finale that year.
Both drivers entered the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix level on points, in what was quite literally a winner takes all race.
As is well documented, for all the wrong reasons, the championship was ultimately decided by a ‘human error’ by race director at the time Michael Masi.
Hamilton had led the vast majority of the race after overtaking Verstappen at the first corner of the Grand Prix, following an excellent launch off the line.
However, a late crash for Nicholas Latifi led to arguably the most controversial ending to a race in the history of F1.
Masi failed to follow the correct Safety Car procedure and didn’t allow the correct number of cars to unlap themselves, before then restarting the race a lap earlier than he should’ve done.
Had the rules been followed, Hamilton would’ve claimed an elusive eighth Drivers’ Championship; instead, Verstappen claimed his first.
Their rivalry had been building throughout the season, following tight battles in Bahrain and Barcelona in particular.
They went on to crash into each other at Silverstone and Monza, before they collided yet again at the penultimate round of the campaign in Saudi Arabia.
Staggeringly, that race in Jeddah is still Hamilton’s most recent win, whereas Verstappen has claimed 35 since then.
Nobody has regularly competed with the Red Bull driver since Hamilton did in 2021, although some suggest that the duo could fight once again in 2024 if Mercedes have developed a competitive package.
Whilst Verstappen admits himself and the seven-time World Champion “want to beat each other”, he insists that having a feud with the 39-year-old isn’t what he’s currently after, with the duo being “normal” with each other away from the circuit currently.
“I don’t need that kind of rivalry,” Verstappen told The Times.
“Of course we want to beat each other, but honestly, once we’re in a private setting it’s like just normal guys.”