The 2021 Formula One season has posed one of the best title battles in years, or at least since 2012, with everything to play for and no gap too marginal in the final five rounds.
In what has been tradition in the last eight years, Lewis Hamilton stands as the man to beat. Now veteran of the sport, the Brit aims to be the first driver to claim an eighth drivers’ title. Yet, unlike the previous campaigns, this year hasn’t been a walk in the park for Sir Lewis, with young Dutch prodigy Max Verstappen often being the star of the headlines.
The young challenger has been a focal point of the Red Bull team since 2018 and is known for driving on the limit with an ‘all or nothing’ approach that can often earn him the best results or end in disaster.
There is no doubt that anyone would excuse Verstappen for being daunted when going against, statistically, the most successful driver the sport has seen. Yet, when talking about battling Hamilton, the Dutchman remains unfazed.
Speaking about the battle and his relationship with the Mercedes man, Verstappen told The Gentleman’s Journal: “I mean, we’re how competitors should be. We’re not exactly going to have dinner together but that’s fine.
“You have that competitive spirit and we always try to beat each other on track, but also try to respect each other off track as well.
“So far there have been some tense moments, but overall it’s been all right.”
This is in the light of a handful of incidents, such as in Silverstone and Monza being points of controversy, where the two title challengers have made mistakes overstepping the line and collided, with the blame game being played between Mercedes and Red Bull and tensions being kept as frosty as ever.
These incidents in hindsight may come back to haunt each driver with every single point playing a key role that could decide the championship
Verstappen continues to allude to these ‘tense moments,’ but through trying to keep a mutual respect on and off track, states that ‘overall it’s been alright.’
While Verstappen can at times come across as aggressive on and sometimes off the track, the possibility of competing for the title has shown maturity beyond his 24 years, with him and Hamilton often shaking hands after a race, and while not best friends, the two have refrained from criticising each other towards the media.
With the title looking to go down to the wire, Verstappen’s mind-set and experience gained through a season where he and his opposition have had highs and lows has allowed him to shake off the image of being one of the sport’s ‘youngsters,’ but rather one of the most formidable opponents that Hamilton has faced.
He doesn’t show any signs of the pressure of potentially being the first non-Mercedes driver to win the World Championship since Red Bull’s previous golden boy Sebastian Vettel’s epic four-consecutive titles from 2010-13.
This mentality is paramount to Max’s performances and this ability to cope with pressure could be one of the many factors that pushes him to the 2021 title.
Read Max Verstappen’s full interview on thegentlemansjournal.com