Red Bull designer Adrian Newey has indicated that Sir Lewis Hamilton’s actions at last year’s British Grand Prix were perhaps on the naughty side, but accepts that Max Verstappen was also antagonistic towards the Briton during their title fight in 2021.
Verstappen and Hamilton went head-to-head for the world championship in a dramatic, enthralling and awe-inspiring season which included, and ended with, no shortage of controversy as the Dutchman sealed his maiden world title in Abu Dhabi.
Tensions had been slowly simmering throughout the first part of the season, and it all came to a head in Silverstone on the first lap when the pair collided at Copse corner, sending the 24-year-old into the wall in a 51G crash.
Hamilton was straight on the radio to ask if his rival was okay, but the incident was symptomatic of two teams that were becoming major adversaries in Red Bull and Mercedes, with Christian Horner describing the 37-year-old’s eventual victory “hollow.”
Verstappen is known to be an aggressive racer, but Newey dismisses any notion that the Dutchman is “wild.”
“What’s great about Max is you always know what the car is capable of because he always gets in it and wrings its neck,” he said.
“His feedback is good, he’s very aware of what the tyres are doing and how to manage them. I think his reputation for being wild is unfair.”
The Briton acknowledges that the incidents in Brazil and Saudi Arabia were a legacy of some over-exuberance and frustration from his driver, but reiterates that the seven-time champion was not entirely innocent last season either.
“Probably what he did in Brazil last year was a bit naughty. Saudi was silly. I think he got frustrated with Lewis not overtaking him but he still shouldn’t have brake-tested him,” he explained.
“But Silverstone to me was a clear professional foul [by Hamilton] and people seem to have a short memory. They brand an individual and it takes time for that to go.”
The 63-year-old, who has won nine Constructors’ Championships with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, is enthused by the attitude and passion of Verstappen, praising all the attributes that have helped him become world champion.
“He’s very easy to work with, very open. You ask him to do things and he will always try,” added Newey.
“He’s aggressive, but I think generally he’s very fair. He’s got such talent, such drive.
“He’s still so young. He’s on a steep learning curve still, he’s just amazing. And the best thing about him is he’s just so easy to work with.
“There are no airs, no pretences, he just comes in and gets on with it. I love the guy, he’s amazing.”
Verstappen has won two of the opening four rounds of the 2022 season, and sits 27 points behind Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ Standings having suffered reliability woes in Bahrain and Australia.