“Charles did a great job, what a great battle,” said Hamilton after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel fight with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at Silverstone. 

“He is a very sensible driver - clearly a lot different to what I experienced last year. At Copse for example, the two of us went through there no problem.” 

Four times The Halo SAVED an F1 driver | F1 2022 Crash.Net

Hamilton was of course citing his dramatic collision with Verstappen at the same corner during last year’s British Grand Prix, which came amid one of the most intense F1 title battles of modern times. 

It concluded in controversy at the Abu Dhabi finale as Verstappen beat Hamilton to the championship crown, only after former FIA race director Michael Masi incorrectly applied the rules during a late Safety Car period. 

Speaking ahead of last weekend's British Grand Prix, Verstappen insisted he had moved on from the collision. 

"I think that’s the beautiful thing about racing drivers, of course at the time you are upset,” said the Red Bull driver. “But you can also quickly forget about it, move on, and race hard. 

“If you look at how we are interacting also this year, it is behind us. Clashes happen, some are a bit more painful than others but you move on from it. 

“We just like to race each other on track. Of course this year it is not as much as last year but we have a lot of respect for each, including what happened last year.”

In contrast, it was interesting from a mindset point of view that Hamilton decided to bring up last year’s Silverstone clash - which the FIA adjudged him to be at fault for - and level a dig at Verstappen without a cue. 

For Hamilton, it would seem putting last year behind him has been more difficult.

Indeed, Hamilton even admitted in an interview with Channel 4 over the weekend that the events of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix were “traumatic” for him. 

“That will always be with me,” said the seven-time world champion. 

“I think that’s when anyone experiences this trauma, because it can be a traumatic experience when you lose something that you’ve worked hard for, whatever it may be.

“So I think that will always be a part of me, but I would like to think that I’ve gained strength from it, I would say.

“It’s not something I’m looking back on and thinking about ever to be honest. I’m just looking forward.

“What I am grateful for is still the love that I have for my job, for the sport, and the support that I have within the sport but also seeing the change that’s slowly starting to happen.”

Hamilton and Verstappen have only engaged in wheel-to-wheel combat once so far this season, in Canada, when Hamilton beat Verstappen out of the pits to maintain track position. But it was a far cry from the action we witnessed last year. 

Despite the lack of animosity and drama between the pair this year, Hamilton’s home crowd let their feelings be known to Verstappen at Silverstone, even to the point their hero urged his fans not to boo the Dutchman. 

With 50,000 Dutch fans expected to be supporting Verstappen at the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend, it would not be a surprise to hear the roles being reversed. 

Are Mercedes now back in the fight? 

2022 has not played out the way Hamilton and Mercedes would have envisaged. From the team’s point of view, it was supposed to be the season Hamilton got revenge and earned a redemptive, record-breaking eighth world title. 

But with Mercedes’ 2022 car plagued by issues, it has been a painful campaign to date, in which neither Hamilton nor teammate George Russell have found themselves in a situation to compete for wins.

Silverstone appeared to mark a turning point, as Hamilton found himself leading a race for the first time this year and was in contention for victory in Mercedes’ upgraded W13. He eventually finished third and set the fastest lap on the final tour.

Afterwards, Hamilton said Mercedes have narrowed the gap to current leaders Red Bull and Ferrari and suggested the team might not be too far from winning again. 

"We've made a step closer to them. So we've got to keep pushing," said Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by 88 points in the championship. 

"The fact that we were able to follow and dice like that, lap on lap, is a testament to the direction I think that we're now in. I was just grateful that I could be in the battle. Because I've not been in that fight for a while.”

Hamilton added: "I think it's hugely encouraging that we were in the fight. For a good period of time, I was matching the Ferraris' pace, and even better at some stages. And we got the quickest lap at the end.

"I think the race pace was definitely improved. That's been our strongest part of our car, I think, this year in general. But it's definitely helped us get a little bit closer.

"I don't think we're in a winning position yet. But we're not far away.”

However, Mercedes do not expect to be as competitive at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, a venue they have struggled at in recent years. At the last five races in Spielberg, Verstappen has won three times. 

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already downplayed his side’s chance of continuing their momentum in Austria. 

"We were 'back in the game' at Silverstone but that doesn't mean it will be again,” said Wolff

"We have had in Barcelona moments of where we saw some light at the end of the tunnel and then the next three street circuits proved that we were wrong, so I don't want to talk us up, nor be too optimistic at this stage.

"I think Austria was always a little bit difficult. There's a few corners that we don't like. It's a very different track to Silverstone and one that hasn't always suited us in the past.”

Mercedes may well fall back in Austria but given their recent gains in competitiveness, and having solved their porpoising issues, perhaps we won’t have to wait too long before the next on-track battle between Hamilton and Verstappen.