Lewis Hamilton has speculated as to why he and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen have been having such intense duels on the Formula 1 track for years and why the Dutchman always focuses on the British driver in particular.
After Lewis Hamilton dominated Formula 1 for much of the last decade, Max Verstappen emerged as the dominator in the pinnacle of motorsport in the last two seasons, winning two world championship titles in a row. In the 2021 season in particular, the Red Bull driver fought a head-to-head duel with the Mercedes man, and the two F1 drivers clashed again and again on the track, taking each other out on several occasions.
In 2022, the track encounters became less frequent because Mercedes was lagging behind for a long time, especially at the beginning of the season. Towards the end of the year, however, things escalated again.
At the Brazilian Grand Prix, Verstappen crashed into the seven-time world champion, received a five-second penalty and dropped back. Hamilton felt almost pursued by the Dutchman, as he shared after the race.
Verstappen targets Hamilton
Now the 37-year-old has conjectured why Verstappen keeps targeting him. “I think it’s almost self-explanatory,” Hamilton told British TV station Channel 4.
“You just have to listen to what certain people say about me as a competitor,” the British driver pointed out, adding meaningfully, without again mentioning Verstappen’s name directly: “And you have to look back at how people like that behave next to me on the track.
“Then you would see that this behaviour is very different from how it is towards other drivers.”
Hamilton recalls debut year in Formula 1
Hamilton put this down to the fact that he has enjoyed such great success with Mercedes in recent years, claiming six of his seven World Championship titles with the Silver Arrows.
“I can’t quite explain it, but part of this [rivalry Verstappen] is certainly because I’ve had such great success here.”
It was no different for himself back when he first came to Formula One in 2007, Hamilton continued. At that time, “someone else who had just had success was the target and my concern was to challenge them.”
By that, the British driver is likely referring to Kimi Raikkonen, who secured the title that year before Hamilton himself became F1 world champion for the first time a year later.
“You then want to show how tough you are, how good you are compared to that person and so on,” Hamilton said, explaining Verstappen’s constant on-track attacks.