The intense battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the Spanish Grand Prix has led to a change in their off-track relationship, according to F1 media pundit Tom Clarkson.
Verstappen got the better of Hamilton on the opening lap of the race after pulling off a daring overtake to get into the lead. Whilst Hamilton was later able to beat his rival to the win thanks to a strong strategy by Mercedes, it appears that the first-corner incident may have had a lasting impact on the dynamic between the two racers.
"I think it's turned up a notch," Clarkson - who carries out the driver press conference interviews at Grand Prix weekends - told the F1 Nation podcast.
"Throw our minds back seven days to Portugal, Lewis has just won the race, Max is second. They come into the press conference room and there's a stall in the middle of the room.
"Lewis sort of drapes himself lying on his back over this stall just to stretch his back after the race, and Max is sort of wanting to come over and help him stretch. It's [a] wonderful behind the scenes chance to see their relationship up-close, and it was all very easy after that race.
"Fast forward seven days to the Spanish Grand Prix, [there was] much more of an edge in the room, and I think there were various trigger points for that.
"One is turn one. For the second time in three races, Max has really lent on Lewis at turn one and Lewis has had to take avoiding action to stop them colliding.
"And I think when Lewis was saying after the race 'I learned a lot about the way Max was driving', I think that was a direct reference to what happened at turn one in that this guy is so ruthless and is a total pain in the ass."
Clarkson thinks that the increasingly tense nature of the championship fight has also contributed to the seeming shift in the relationship between Hamilton and Verstappen.
"Everything about [it at the press conference], they weren't looking at each other," the journalist said. "There's just much more of an edge.
"It's like, we're four races in, yes there's still 19 to go, but suddenly we're getting into the meat and veg of this championship now, and with every race that's rolling past the gap is getting a little bigger.
"It's just wonderful to see this edge, but there's definitely more of an edge now, that would be my take."