Max Verstappen has enjoyed his rivalry with Lewis Hamilton during the 2021 F1 season but admits it would feel just the same if it was a different driver in the Mercedes.
Given that Hamilton is a seven-time World Champion, it would be understandable if there was an added sense of prestige to beating him. For Verstappen, though, his approach does not change regardless of who he is racing against.
"People always hype it up a bit," Verstappen – speaking before his clash with Hamilton at the British Grand Prix – told Channel 4 F1. "But I think it's just really cool that we are able to fight in two different cars against each other for the championship instead of always one team, [where] you just have a teammate battle.
"Lewis is one of the best drivers in F1, that F1 in general has ever seen, and to be able to fight against him is really nice... I hope we can do [this battle] for a long time, at least another two years after this. I don't know what Lewis is going to do after.
"It's great, [but] at the end of the day, if it would be Lando [Norris], for example, or George [Russell] in that same car, it's still the same feeling."
Verstappen believes that there are many talented drivers in Formula 1 who have simply not had the chance to show their skill.
"In F1 there are so many good drivers," the Red Bull man explained. "But some of them never get the opportunity to actually show how good they are.
"I rate Lando and George also very high compared to them."
There remains the possibility that Verstappen could indeed race Russell in a Mercedes in 2022, with speculation continuing over whether the British driver will become Hamilton's teammate or remain at Williams for a fourth season.
Meanwhile, Verstappen will be keen to take back momentum in this year's title battle when Formula 1 returns from its summer break at the Belgian Grand Prix on 27-29 August. The Dutchman is currently eight points behind Hamilton in the Drivers' standings.