Verstappen and Hamilton duelled it out in one of the most epic title fights in F1 history in 2021, with the world championship coming down to the last lap of the last race of the season. 

Red Bull driver Verstappen ultimately prevailed to clinch his maiden world title, and deny Hamilton a record-breaking eighth drivers’ crown, in the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi showdown. 

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Speaking to F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast, Horner claimed Verstappen held a psychological advantage over Hamilton because he “had nothing to lose”. 

“I think arguably, maybe more so in Lewis’ head,” Horner said when asked if the two drivers got in each other’s heads last season.

“Because he’s the seven-time world champion that has everything to lose. Max is the young kid that’s taking the risks, that’s throwing everything at it, and got nothing to lose.

“Some of his overtaking last year was stunning and you felt that started to rattle Lewis, I think.

“We definitely saw after Lewis qualified on pole at Silverstone and Max won the sprint race you saw Lewis, he was a bit broken after the sprint race.

“Had Max made it through Copse, I don’t think they’d have seen him again that afternoon, so there was an air of desperation building in as well.

“It was high stakes stuff and your emotions run high, but it probably affected Lewis arguably more than Max because, as I say, he’d got more to lose than Max. Max had everything to gain.”

Hamilton ‘never’ recognised Verstappen’s ability 

Horner also spoke about the differences between Verstappen’s bitter rivalry with Hamilton compared to his battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc this season. 

Verstappen is cruising towards a second successive title and could wrap up the 2022 championship as early as the next race in Singapore.

The Red Bull chief said he cannot recall a time when Hamilton has recognised Verstappen’s talent and believes a “different” respect exists between the reigning world champion and Leclerc. 

“You know, there’s a difference, there’s perhaps a different respect with Charles,” Horner said. 

“They raced each other since [being] kids, and there was a mutual respect. I’ve never once ever heard Lewis recognise Max’s ability.

“And so of course, there was just a bit more needle to it and you could feel that, and you could sense that between those two drivers.”

Hamilton was heard describing Verstappen as being “aggressive as hell” during the latest season of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, which documented how the 2021 title fight was soured by several on-track collisions between the pair. 

However, Hamilton did praise Verstappen after winning the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix to equal Michael Schumacher’s win record. 

“He’s such a great talent, he’s so fast and consistent,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. 

“So it’s not easy to beat this young up-and-coming champ.”