Why Max Verstappen has ‘a lot more fun now’ than 2021 Lewis Hamilton title battle

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, shake hands. Hungary, July 2023.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, shake hands post-qualifying. Hungary, July 2023.

Max Verstappen enjoys dominating Formula 1, so much prefers the current F1 2023 campaign to when Lewis Hamilton was challenging him for the title in 2021.

It was in 2021 that Verstappen ascended to Formula 1 title glory for the first time in his career, snatching the World Championship from Hamilton on the last lap of the season after an epic season-long battle.

Since then it has been much smoother sailing for the Dutchman, who after storming his way to the 2022 title, is now doing the same in F1 2023, having won 10 of the opening 12 grands prix.

Max Verstappen happily takes this over 2021-style title scrap

With Verstappen going into race day at his home event, the Dutch Grand Prix, looking to equal Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive victories, Verstappen was asked by Sky F1 whether he prefers this lack of competition, or if withstanding Hamilton’s challenge in 2021 gave him more of a thrill?

As it turned out, it was a very easy choice for the Dutchman.

“I have a lot more fun now,” he declared.

“This is what I like to do, I like to win. I like to dominate. I like to work with the people I’m working with.

“It’s very enjoyable and I always want more. People think it gets boring for me when I’m leading but absolutely not, that’s what I wanted to do from a very young age and I always wanted to be there.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Revealed: The five longest winning streaks by a single driver in F1

F1 points all-time rankings: Where do Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso feature?

Considering the way that Verstappen and Red Bull snuffed out Ferrari’s bright start to F1 2022 to ultimately dominate much of the campaign, it could be said that the writing was on the wall for F1 2023, considering Verstappen won nine of the last 11 grands prix in 2022.

But, Verstappen said he fully expected the competition to have closed up in the current season, rather than the opposite which has proven to be true.

Asked if he believed this level of domination was possible for himself and Red Bull, Verstappen replied: “No, not at all. I think after last year I really thought for this year teams will be getting closer to us.

“I think we surprised ourselves with how competitive the car was, how enjoyable it was to drive.

“I think it still took a few races for me to be fully on top of the car, to really sort out all the settings, but once I figured out how to drive it and how to work with the car, I think it’s been really really good to drive.”

Verstappen holds a 125-point lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez ahead of his home race.

Read nextExclusive: Christian Horner responds to Charles Leclerc’s Red Bull dominance claim