Max Verstappen has revealed that his feelings toward Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have shifted over the course of their season-long title race – and not in a positive way.
After a year of ebb and flow racing, Hamilton and Verstappen enter the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday tied on 369.5 points.
Red Bull's Verstappen appeared to be the favourite to win his first title until Hamilton, aiming for a record eighth drivers' championship, won the previous three races leading up to the finale at Yas Marina.
Throughout the year, there have been numerous incidents, including Verstappen and Hamilton colliding on the track and Red Bull boss Christian Horner and Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff verbally sparring off it.
Claims and counter-claims about the legitimacy of their competitors' cars, as well as personal barbs and shunts on the track, have punctuated what has already been a memorable season.
In last weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Hamilton collided with the back of Verstappen's car, and the latter was given a 10-second time penalty for slowing down without due caution, after already receiving a five-second penalty for earlier gaining an advantage by leaving the track.
When asked if his opinion of Mercedes and Hamilton had changed during the season, the Dutchman replied, "Yes, very much so." And not in a good way.
"Clearly, only I was wrong in some way, because, as I said, other people do the same thing and get nothing." We were both off the track into turn one, and they somehow decided that it was my fault, which I disagree with.
"I don't agree with the other penalty [causing the collision], and then he [Hamilton] pushes me off the track, he even looks at me, he doesn't turn in, he just pushes me outside the white line, the track edge, and he only gets a warning for that."
"It's not how it should be, and it's not fair because it appears that other drivers can do different things, while only I receive a penalty."
Michael Masi, Formula One race director, highlighted specific clauses in the FIA sporting code ahead of the weekend, reminding racers that if anything went wrong on track, they could be penalised with points deductions.
"The stewards may also decide to impose the following penalties: suspension for one or more competitions, withdrawal of points for the championship, cup, challenge, trophy, series," Masi said.