Lewis Hamilton says he respects arch-rival Max Verstappen, but the Briton isn't sure that the opposite is true.
The intense rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen reached its peak during the 2021 F1 season, when multiple flash points and two collisions – at Silverstone and at Monza – carried the pair's strife to new heights.
As the title fight went down to the wire, the controversial outcome of F1's high-octane finale left Hamilton seeking revenge in 2022, but the Briton was unable to compete on equal terms with Verstappen and Red Bull due to the chronic issues that weighed on Mercedes' performance for most of the season.
However, in Brazil last November, where the Brackley squad had regained its footing, Hamilton and Verstappen went wheel-to-wheel and clashed, with Verstappen receiving a five-second penalty from the stewards.
After the incident, Hamilton revealed that he felt like "a bit of a target" when dicing with Verstappen although he fully respects the two-time F1 world champion, describing the rumors of problems with the Dutchman as "fairytales".
"People like to talk about there being problems between Max and me," he told Formula 1 Magazine. "I respect him."
But Hamilton suggested that his adversary may not feel the same about him.
"He is a lot younger, so maybe he has a problem with me," he added. "But I am not sure about that and I actually assume not. Although I can’t speak for him."
As for holding a grudge against Verstappen following the events that unfolded in Abu Dhabi in December 2021 that allowed the Red Bull charger to clinch his first world title, Hamilton dispelled any notion of a beef existing between the two drivers.
"He did everything he had to do in 2021, so why should I have a problem with him," said Hamilton. "He performed and delivered every weekend, nobody can take that away from him."
In the opposite camp, Verstappen admitted to being at a loss to understand why Hamilton and himself have repeatedly crashed into each other.
"Somehow, with Lewis it’s a different story. And I honestly don’t understand," he said last year.
"In Brazil we got together – it was not my intention. I got the blame for it, which I didn’t find fair. If it would’ve been more of a racing incident that I could live with.
"But… I don’t understand. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything different to Lewis or to the other drivers in terms of how we’re racing."
The Dutchman made clear however that he holds the seven-time world champion in great respect.
"I was always taught that you have to respect what people have achieved in sport. I have no problem with what Lewis has achieved. He is one of the best ever," he said.
"I know it is not only the car he has been driving. That helps. We all know that, but you still have to beat your team-mate and Lewis has done that consistently.
"I think you have to acknowledge the person has done an amazing job as well."