Whenever there’s a tight battle for the F1 drivers’ title, the protagonists end up pitched against each other in every which way. Mind games were prominent during the fight between Hamilton and Rosberg and whilst Lewis mostly refrained from them when battling with Max for the 2021 title, Toto Wolff regularly stepped into the breach on his driver’s behalf.
Earlier this week Toto Wolff was spotted in Miami shaking hands with Verstappen’s father, who commented to reporters ‘that was the first contact I’ve had with Toto since Silverstone 2021.’
Silverstone was of course when Hamilton tagged Verstappen at high speed sending him into the barriers and the Dutchman subsequently was required to make a hospital visit following the extreme G-Forces from the impact.
Given Lewis poor start to the season, the rivalry has been once again stoked by F1 pundits asking Max whether he’d enjoyed lapping Hamilton in Imola.
Speaking before this weekend’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix, Verstappen told the Telegraph, “To be honest, it [lapping Hamilton] wasn’t something I was enjoying at the time. I was just focused on my race. On getting through the traffic as cleanly as possibly as winning.
“I mean, it wasn’t like I was, ‘Oh, I’m lapping Lewis. What an amazing feeling’. I had great battles with Lewis last year. Now he’s in a car which is now so great.
“Having said that, of course, George does finish fourth in that car. So it is not all horrific, right?”
Hamilton struggled at the start of the Imola race and despite having more pace than Pierre Gasley in the Alpha Tauri but appeared to lack the confidence to brake outside the dry line. Yet other drivers completed similar overtaking attempts leading to criticism of Hamilton’s ability to race in the midfield.
Verstappen concluded, “I’d say [Hamilton’s] car had quite a bit more pace than the midfield traffic [at Imola].”
Yet the ex-world champion finished P13 while his team mate finished P4.
Miami will be a big test for Lewis, as the pressure builds for him to at least compete with his team mate, even if the Mercedes car isn’t up there with the front running Red Bulls and Ferraris.
Should he be out qualified and/or out raced by Russell, the media pressure will again become more intense as questions arise again whether he needs the best car to win.