Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen's continuing battle for the 2021 F1 World Championship resulted in further controversial incidents at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but some key figures in the paddock who have witnessed the off-track dynamic between the two believe there is still a high level of respect between them.
The title contenders had more than one run-in during Sunday's chaotic race, with Verstappen receiving a five-second time penalty for running wide at Turn 1 whilst battling with Hamilton for the lead on Lap 37.
There was then another clash when Verstappen slowed to yield position to Hamilton following the illegal overtake. Hamilton was seemingly confused by the situation and ran into the back of the Red Bull driver.
Verstappen was later handed a 10-second time penalty for this incident, though it did not affect his finishing position of second. Meanwhile, Hamilton won the race, and the pair will now head to the season finale in Abu Dhabi on equal points.
With the title battle heating up ahead of the weekend in Jeddah, it would perhaps have been understandable for tensions to be showing between Hamilton and Verstappen early on in the proceedings.
However, according to journalist Tom Clarkson - who conducts the driver press conference interviews during race weekends - the two drivers seemed relaxed with each other following Saturday's qualifying session, where Verstappen lost out on what looked to be a certain pole position after hitting the wall in the final moments of his last flying lap.
"An extraordinary thing [happened] after qualifying," Clarkson told the F1 Nation podcast.
"They came into the press conference room, and Lewis likes to get changed into his Tommy Hilfiger gear, get out of the overalls.
"I thought there would be a bit of a stony silence from Max, because he just made that mistake, and yet there was genuine banter.
"Lewis said to him, 'What happened, man?' And then Max explained, and I was really surprised at just how open they were with each other.
"Less so after the race, I've got to be honest with you! But there is, I think, that deep-rooted respect between those two."
"Different people, different generations"
Fellow F1 pundit David Coulthard agrees that there is still respect between Verstappen and Hamilton, though acknowledges that they are very different people.
"I think there is respect there," the former Formula 1 driver added.
"They're different people, they're different generations. They're clearly not going to sit down and have a nice dinner together.
"But I think that they're both professional. Max has got maturity beyond his years. He's had that since we saw him get his first victory at, what, 17?
"I think that, at the end of the day, neither of them want to just accept that they're going to lose a title."
Coulthard is also grateful to have witnessed the Hamilton/Verstappen battle play out throughout the year.
"They've given us a rare piece of racing history," he explained.
"We are spectators to this but I think that, for those who are not as close to the action as us, this has been a brilliant championship, and more people are tuning in to Formula 1 than we've seen in previous years."
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