Lewis Hamilton may have changed his 'mind game' tactics with Max Verstappen following the Dutchman's win at the Monaco Grand Prix, according to F1 pundits Tom Clarkson, Natalie Pinkham and Damon Hill.
Ahead of the event, Hamilton was quoted as questioning whether Verstappen "feels he perhaps has a lot to prove" in the title battle. But after Verstappen won the race in Monaco - and Hamilton had a difficult race, finishing down in seventh - the Mercedes driver did not appear to follow up on his previous comments.
"I thought it was interesting, he didn't want to have a fight with Max after the race," Clarkson told the F1 Nation podcast. "Having been quite punchy beforehand, saying Max feels he's got something to prove.
"He then said after the race 'I'm not going to get into a war of words with him', so he sort of throttled back quite a lot after the race, which I thought was interesting."
On the idea of Hamilton playing mind games with Verstappen, Pinkham believes that the Briton had to change his approach given Verstappen's success at Monaco.
"I think that he probably accepts that this was all on them [Mercedes]. He can't launch into any kind of war of words with Max after Max has really driven a great race, obviously covering off Valtteri [Bottas] quite aggressively at the start, and then beyond that really had things under control.
"Really where Mercedes' problems came from were their own doing, so you could definitely tell with Lewis that he was sort of seething about that, and you can't direct that aggression towards anyone else other than internally and try and flush out what the problem was."
When previously asked about Hamilton's comments, Verstappen had spoken of wanting to do his talking on the track, and Hill thinks that the Red Bull driver has taken a sensible approach in this respect.
"I think Max has definitely kept himself in his little bubble, and I think he's not letting anything distract him," the 1996 World Champion explained.
"I think his focus is quite good. It's very easy to get derailed by journalists' questions about [whether you are] upset by some of the insinuations from someone else's comments, and he's just not going there. I think he's been playing it quite well."
On the topic of whether Hamilton plays mind games, Hill added: "Lewis says he doesn't, but he does play the odd comment every now and then.
"Remember with Nico [Rosberg], he was sort of talking about how he's from a poor background, not like a rich kid or something. He lived in Monaco. I mean, who was that directed at?"
Clarkson - who conducts the driver press conferences on Grand Prix weekends - said that he felt Hamilton had upped the ante before Monaco because the title fight is now "getting serious".
"Maybe he is slightly rattled," Pinkham agreed. "And so he should be. He's [Verstappen's] ahead in the World Championship after this weekend. So he's having to resort to different tactics that he hadn't had to tap into for some time."