‘How do you fight fire?’: Lewis Hamilton met his match in red-hot F1 rival Max Verstappen, says David Coulthard… who lauds the new world champion for his fearless tactics during last year’s historic championship battle
- Max Verstappen claimed victory in an iconic F1 title battle with Lewis Hamilton
- The Dutchman pipped Hamilton after a controversial finale out in Abu Dhabi
- Ex-F1 driver David Coulthard has praised Verstappen for his risky racing strategy
- Coulthard believes Hamilton was left with the task of trying to ‘fight fire’
Lewis Hamilton came unstuck in last year’s gripping F1 title race because he was ‘fighting fire’ against Max Verstappen, says former driver David Coulthard.
Verstappen got the better of Hamilton in a historic battle for the 2021 championship, pipping his arch-rival to the crown after a controversial finale out in Abu Dhabi.
The pair had already clashed on several occasions throughout the season, including when Verstappen was penalised for a collision with his title nemesis at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
And the Dutchman eventually romped home to glory in contentious fashion, passing Hamilton on the final lap despite a late safety car emerging after a Nicholas Latifi crash.
Lewis Hamilton (left) met his match in Max Verstappen (right) last year, says David Coulthard
Many felt Verstappen had clinched a first F1 world title unjustly, but Coulthard is an admirer of the fearless strategy which came up trumps for him in the end.
‘The way he (Verstappen) drives, the thing that I find most impressive…(if) there’s a gap, he goes for it. It’s not even a doubt,’ he said on Channel 4.
‘I used to weigh up “should I risk it now, should I not risk it”, he just goes “I can see the biscuit”.
‘He risks it for the biscuit, he just goes. It really is quite special.
Verstappen pipped Hamilton to the F1 crown after a historic championship scrap with the Brit
‘And when you actually see how Lewis is defending against that, Lewis is an exceptional racing driver, but he’s had to open the door on more than one occasion because he’s come up against, if he’s fire, he’s come up against fire, and how do you fight fire?’
Verstappen, who made his racing debut with Toro Rosso at just 17 years of age, has followed in the footsteps of his father Jos, a former F1 racer for Benetton and a Formula Three champion in his own career.
Though despite having the backing of both his dad and Red Bull, Coulthard insists the new champion did not have an easy route into the sport.
Coulthard is a big fan of Verstappen, likening Hamilton’s challenge last year to ‘fighting fire’
‘That journey started at four years old when Jos, frustrated with the mistakes of his own career, he mapped out how to build a future World Champion,’ the ex-McLaren star continued.
‘So it’s been tough love, there has not been, let’s say some other guys here in the Formula 1 paddock that maybe have been magic carpeted into this paddock, but Max has had to fight for it.
‘He’s been a winner all the way through, skipped some of the lower formulas, to come into Formula 1, but he fears nobody, that’s not a part of his psyche.’
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