The Formula one 2021 season saw an epic battle between the ‘old master’ and 7 times world champion Lewis Hamilton and the ‘young pretender to the crown’ Max Verstappen. The young dutch driver appeared to have the edge in the title race for most of the year until in Brazil Mercedes fitted a new engine for “performance reasons” in Hamilton’s car, took the penalty but the British driver then went on to win the next three races. This then left Hamilton with a chance at the world title going into the final event in Abu Dhabi.
Yet the on track battles during the year meant at times one or both of the drivers’ eded up off track.
Hamilton and Verstappen collisions are different
In Silverstone with Verstappen leading the race, Lewis tagged him and sent him into the barrier. Lewis’ fans applauded the crash of the dutchman and despite being punished by the stewards Hamilton went on to win the race.
At the Italian GP the roles were reversed as Verstappen attempted an overtake around the outside of the first chicane. Hamilton refused to yield and the pair ended up in the gravel with Verstappen’s car on top of the Mercedes and the spinning real wheels perilously close to Hamilton’s helmet.
Verstappen was criticised for not checking whether Hamilton was ok as he walked away, however at the time Lewis was spinning up his rear wheels in an attempt to back his car out of the gravel.
F1 Team bosses stoke the online fans anger
As Christian Horner would criticise Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff would respond in kind yet the online venom and toxicity from F1 “fans” came mostly in the direction of Max Verstappen.
The narrative that Max “robbed” Lewis of his 8th title was born and continued this season with even Sky F1’s reporter Ted Kravitz repeating on air the stereotype.
It appears Toto Wolff now understands how allowing the mob to behave any way it pleases is destructive. Verstappen was boo’d during the 2022 US GP and Wolff came out in his defence.
Wolff defends Verstappen
“That is unacceptable,” the Mercedes boss told Sky Germany.
“The booing, whether it’s on the podium or on the fan stage, nobody wants to see that.
“I think we [Formula 1] have done a lot against this kind of behaviour. It is somewhat contained and it doesn’t belong here either. Something like that should not happen.”
Max Verstappen has made his own behavioural adjustments and now admits he is overly cautious when discussing his racing battles with Lewis Hamilton “because in England this can very quickly be received as criticism and then I’m being called out on it.”
Verstappen says ‘its different with Lewis’
Verstappen believes he is criticised when racing hard with Lewis just as he does with other drivers.
“I always respect Lewis a lot for what he has achieved in the sport, but that’s why I don’t really understand why we cannot really race like I’ve been doing with the others.
“Of course, everyone is different in their approach. I know that Charles is a bit different to George, or to Carlos [Sainz] or to Checo [Perez], or whoever.
“I do have to be a little bit more careful with that because immediately it’s really taken as criticism. And then people start to hate on you. Well, that’s not my intention.”
Few battles between Lewis and Max in 2022
Given the Mercedes poor performance of the 2022 W13 car there have been few occasions when Verstappen and Hamilton have been racing on the same piece of the track.
The only coming together between the two occurred at the Sau Paulo GP when Verstappen made a move on Hamilton going into the first corner and the Senna Esses. Verstappen was penalised by the stewards for the coming together though it may have cost Lewis a shot at the race win taken by his team mate Gorge Russell.
Even then fans of Hamilton online were scathing about Verstappen’s behaviour. One questioned whether this “is a murder attemp?”
Another referred to cheating blog required for Verstappen to win his 2021 world title.
— Justice #TeamLH #44 (@JusticeForLewiz) November 13, 2022
Max cautious in discussing Brazil coming together with Lewis
When asked about the incident in Brazil, Verstappen is cautious.
“Well, I have to be careful what I’m saying here, but with everyone I’ve been fighting this year, it’s been really hard, aggressive battles and we never really came together,” he analysed.
“Somehow, with Lewis it’s a different story. And I honestly don’t understand.
“Like, this year, ok we haven’t really had a lot of battles. But Brazil we got together and it was not my intention. I got the blame for it, which I didn’t find fair.
“If it would’ve been more of a racing incident that I could live with.
Its a generation thing, concludes Verstappen
Verstappen ponders the difference between racing the likes of LeClerc and Sainz with his on track fights with Hamilton.
“But I don’t understand. Maybe it’s just a generation thing, that we understand each other better, we are racing nicer to each other. I don’t get it.”
The big unknown for 2023 is whether Mercedes can play catch up over the winter and deliver a car capable of allowing Russell and Hamilton to challenge the Red Bull double world champion. If not and Lewis hangs up his racing boots in despair, it may be 2021 was the greatest battle – on and off track – F1 will see in a decade.
“You are watching a master at work” 🤩
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) January 3, 2023