Two-Time F1 Champion Gives Opinion On The Hamilton-Verstappen Rivalry.

Mercedes’ steady application of enhancements to its troublesome W13 car, which porpoised frequently at the beginning of the season, has allowed the team to once again be a regular race-winning threat.

Though the team’s improved performance has sparked the resurgence of the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, it is two races away from completing its first F1 season without a win since 2011.

In the previous two races in the US and Mexico, the rivals for the 2021 championship have battled for the lead and placed first and second, much as they did for most of the season before.

There isn’t any hostility between them like there was in the battle last year because Verstappen has already clinched the title, but there are increasing hopes that they will square off again for the title in 2023. But that relies on if Mercedes can build a car that can constantly compete with what Red Bull develops.

Mika Pauli Häkkinen, a two-time F1 champion, is one of the most-qualified former F1 drivers to discuss a heated championship rivalry. He engaged in title battles with seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, especially in 1998 and 2000, which lasted the whole season but were only determined in the final race.

In 1998, Hakkinen clinched his maiden title in a nail-biting final-round finale at Suzuka. He won again in 1999 when his battle with Schumacher was put on hold when Schumacher injured his leg mid-season and then lost to Schumacher in 2000. This was the first of Schumacher’s five straight drivers’ championships with Ferrari.

In a conversation with Edd Straw for The Race F1 Podcast’s new ‘Flat Out with Mika Hakkinen’ section, Hakkinen drew comparisons between his clashes with Schumacher and the battles between Verstappen and Hamilton.

Hakkinen said: “They are, first of all, great drivers, Lewis has shown over the years incredible skills and maturity, how he is talking about F1, himself, the fans. He’s a really great personality and of course his speed and experience on the racetrack is incredible.”

“Max is still a young gentleman, he’s achieved incredible results even at his young age and is a real fighter out there. When you’re racing against him, you don’t want to be racing against him.I had a chance in my young age to race against Michael Schumacher and he was sometimes a ‘naughty boy’ and he didn’t give up.

“When we talk about Max and Lewis there’s some similar situations. You have to know what risks you’re taking with the competitor you’re racing against. We’ve seen some incredible situations with Max and Lewis. They’re fantastic, talented drivers.”

As Hamilton enters his 16th season in Formula 1, Hakkinen lauded him for his consistent on-track performance and emphasized how his off-track qualities have improved.

Hakkinen added: “Lewis has incredible physical and mental strength, F1 is in a very interesting time at the moment, simply because testing time is very limited. So a driver who has the experience [is useful] not only for when there are different surprise pitstops and weather changes.”

“It’s about car control. That develops at such a high level and that can prepare them for surprises and that makes a difference. That is why experience is something money can’t buy. It’s incredible and very impressive what Lewis has done.

“I’ve always known his speed and talent but it’s incredible how he’s developed as a human, his communication is so impressive, he’s a great example for the younger driver.”

Verstappen’s driving skills have periodically been in the limelight since his first F1 season in 2015, most especially during his dogfights versus Hamilton in 2021, and Hakkinen was no stranger to it in his F1 career.

During his first year leading McLaren’s team in 1994, Hakkinen’s driving drew a lot of criticism, and events at Hockenheim and Silverstone resulted in a one-race suspension.

Verstappen has never even come close to receiving a race suspension throughout his career in Formula 1, and this year, with the exception of his battles with Charles Leclerc in the initial races of the season, Verstappen hasn’t experienced the same kind of intense battling as he did in 2021.

However, if Ferrari and/or Mercedes take on Red Bull in 2023, his racing skills—like those of many other great champions before him—will undoubtedly return to the spotlight. Verstappen has Hakkinen’s full compassion and trusts that when he gains more Formula 1 experience, he’ll continue to develop.

“I feel that way just because you’re young, and you’re so confident with yourself and very selfless. That’s why things happen like that,” said Hakkinen regarding the occurrences that resulted in his own suspension.

“Until you learn what this life is all about and racing is all about, it can happen. It’s a very personal thing, how you’re developing as a human. Max is a very aggressive young guy but people just need time.”

“I think when you start winning races and start getting pole positions and fastest laps, you start relaxing. Relaxing doesn’t mean you don’t go flat-out, but you do think when you need to push and what condition the car is. There’s a little learning curve there coming.”