Verstappen/Hamilton rivalry tipped to heat up: 'Neither want to be inferior to each other'

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Despite the current tough but fair racing, the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is being tipped to heat up this season.

Currently, the Red Bull driver is 14 points behind the seven-time world champion, this after Hamilton made it three wins in the first four races last weekend in Spain.

However, the top two have very rarely been more than a few seconds apart on track so far in 2021, and Max's father Jos Verstappen does see the tension building.

"We don't know how it will go, but if I look at the shoulder brush they gave each other after qualifying at Imola, I think we can expect something this year," he told Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport.

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"They are both men who do not want to be inferior to each other. Neither of them will let the other push them aside, especially if it will be more and more about the title.

"I think it's going to be an intense and beautiful year."

Including the disallowed overtake late on in Bahrain, Verstappen has overtaken Hamilton on track at every race so far, with the Briton doing the opposite in Portugal and Spain.

One of the most notable was at the start at Imola when the pair went wheel-to-wheel at Tamburello, and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko sees that as telling to Hamilton's current mentality.

“Hamilton has had no structural opposition, which has now emerged with Red Bull and Max Verstappen,” the outspoken Austrian told RTL. “And apparently this leads to reactions, which is humanly understandable.

“It was amazing to me that Hamilton did not concede in the first corner [at Imola] while driving on the outside because it was clear he could not win this duel.

“This shows Hamilton does not want to accept this opposition. He is resisting it with great ferocity.”

From these on-track duels though, Marko does see one big winner.

“When they are in the car and go into a corner together, it is not about tactics. Then it’s just man-to-man,” he added.

“That’s very good for the fans, while for us as a team the tension increases dramatically.”

As for whether the Hamilton/Verstappen rivalry could spill off the track, Red Bull's Christian Horner has doubts.

“Max will do his talking on the track,” he told ESPN.

“Lewis has demonstrated he’s capable of, excuse my French, dropping a b****ck occasionally. He’s capable of making a significant mistake, as we saw at Imola, and he just got very lucky that he wasn’t a lap down and didn’t pay a bigger price for it.

“I think he [Max]’s got that youthful bravado, he’s got nothing to lose,” Horner added.

“Every big pressure point in his career I’ve seen him deal with previously, he’s stepped up to the plate tremendously well.

“I’ve no doubt he’ll be able to deal with it should the opportunity come.”