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Formula 1 2021

Herbert exclusive: Only Hamilton and Verstappen can play mind games and perform

In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, the former Formula 1 driver feels that only Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen can play mental games before going wheel-to-wheel against each other.

Hamilton Verstappen
To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

Johnny Herbert believes Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the only two drivers on the current Formula 1 grid who can play mind games before going head-to-head on a race weekend.

Hamilton and Verstappen have been involved in one of the most exciting battles F1 has seen this century, with just eight points separating them at the halfway mark of the season.

It's a duel that has taken place on and off the track between Mercedes and Red Bull over the first 11 events.

"I think Max's mental strength is the strongest point because [of] his difficulties over the last couple of years," Herbert told RacingNews365.com. "He's been very frustrated because Red Bull haven't quite given him the car that he needed to compete against Lewis in the Mercedes.

"Now he's got that and he's showing that mental strength. The mental games that he's playing as well, Lewis is doing the same thing. It's more obvious with Max. But that's what it's all about. That's what those special ones [drivers] have, that no one else has on the grid.

"At the moment, it's just those two that have that ability to play those mental games, but actually then jump in a car and do the job that they love to do, which is to drive fast. But [to] actually drive wheel-to-wheel with someone who's achieved so much in his time in motorsport as a whole, Lewis, who's not afraid in a way, that is where we haven't seen the best of Max yet."

Hamilton and Verstappen's rivalry has shown glimpses of the famous duel between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Senna and Prost drove for the same team in 1988 and 1989 with McLaren.

Herbert is almost certain Hamilton and Verstappen would never be teammates in F1 due to the likely internal war within the team.

"I don't know the differences realistically with their styles," he added. "Max looks more aggressive than Lewis. But then I do remember Lewis when he first came on board in F1 in 2007, he was very, very aggressive back then. So maybe this is similar.

"But even as I see it now, it looks as if Max is the slightly more aggressive driver. So if there is a difference, that becomes then a problem of how you develop a car.

"Then that's where you have the internal wars of how a team is able to control it. Then we go back to the Prost and Senna time and Ron [Dennis] couldn't control it. It's a very hard thing to control. Toto [Wolff] had it with Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis, and hated it, hated every second of it.

"So if you were trying to implement that with Mercedes, I think Toto would absolutely hate it. [He would] enjoy it in one respect [but] I think he'd actually hate the management side of it.

"If you flipped it the other way and stuck them in a Ferrari or in a Red Bull as teammates, I think you'd have this same scenario because unfortunately with everything I've ever seen over the years, one person always gets favoured for whatever reason it may be.

"As soon as the other one feels that, that's where the problems really start to kick off. I think they would kick-off. I think we'd love it, absolutely love it because I think it will be so interesting just seeing how that war would initially start, but then how it would develop over the year.

"Is it something that could happen? I'm not sure either of them would want it because I think they both know that they are the biggest threat they have for each other."

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