Brazil clash ‘set a marker’ between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for 2023

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen shakes hands with Lewis Hamilton. Mexico October 2022

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen shakes hands with Lewis Hamilton. Mexico October 2022

The collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at last month’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix set the tone for the potential resumption of their rivalry in the 2023 Formula 1 season.

That is the opinion of respected F1 reporter Mark Hughes, who believes Verstappen and Hamilton both race differently against other drivers on track.

Hamilton and Verstappen went head to head over the course of one the most thrilling seasons in grand prix history in 2021, with the latter clinching his first World Championship at the controversial finale in Abu Dhabi.

While Verstappen went on to secure his second title in dominant fashion in 2022, seven-time World Champion Hamilton failed to win a race in a season for the first time in his career as Mercedes struggled to master the new regulations.

The pair clashed in the early laps of the penultimate race in Brazil, with Verstappen incurring a five-second time penalty before claiming Hamilton had no intention of leaving him space at the Senna S.

Appearing on Motor Sport Magazine’s season review podcast, Hughes said it is noticeable that Verstappen races differently against other drivers, such as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and pointed out that Hamilton is also inconsistent in combat against his 2021 title rival.

He said: “You saw it as early as Bahrain, the first race, where [Verstappen and Leclerc] were passing and repassing and Max was giving him room. That’s just not how he races Lewis.

“It’s a difficult one because Lewis sometimes gives him room and sometimes thinks, ‘no’.

“Brazil was one of those occasions [with Lewis saying] ‘I know what you’re trying to do and you’re not going to do it’, and Max was saying, ‘I know what you’re going to do and I’m coming through anyway’.

“They’re both entitled to do that, they’re both racing drivers and I don’t think there’s any blame there.

“There’s a choice and maybe it’s not the wisest of choices that each of them makes, but that’s just racing and however you play against one opposition you can play differently against a different opponent.

“It was the first time Lewis had to go wheel to wheel against Max in a reprise of 2021 and I do think, because it didn’t really matter, he was determined to lay a marker down for next year saying, ‘the answer’s still no’. And Max is saying ‘it’s still Lewis Hamilton’.”

Should their battle resume next season Verstappen and Hamilton will race against each other as multiple World Champions and Hughes believes the Dutchman’s success in 2022 – a year in which he won a record 15 races – will spur him further to demonstrate that he has taken Hamilton’s place as the best driver on the grid.

“It means something that he’s being recognised as the number one and the record holder – those things mean something to Max because he feels he’s the best driver out there and he wants to prove it and keep proving it.

“He does race Lewis differently to others.”

Verstappen/Hamilton dynamic is nothing F1 hasn’t seen before

Time for a quick quiz? Good.

Question one: who said the following?

“He had a target. That is obvious. When he arrived in Formula 1 he had a target and it was myself.”

Answer: Alain Prost, in an interview for the film on the life of his great rival Ayrton Senna.

Yet those words could so easily have been said by Hamilton on his relationship with Verstappen, who landed in F1 just as Lewis was beginning his Mercedes hybrid-powered climb to become the most successful driver in the sport’s history.

Against a driver of such quality and reverence, of course Verstappen would be eager – possibly over-eager at times – to make his presence felt and show he will not be easily intimidated or overwhelmed.

In other sports they refer to it as making an opponent ‘know you’re there’; in motorsport it’s called ‘racing them differently’.

It is nothing F1 has not seen before.

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