The 2021 F1 championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was one of epic proportions, and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was front and centre for so much of the drama of the year.
Horner regularly clashed with his adversary at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, during the course of the year, as his driver Verstappen went toe-to-toe with Merc driver Lewis Hamilton.
2021 saw Hamilton beaten in a title battle for the first time in five years, as the young Dutchman in the Red Bull overcame him with a controversial last-lap overtake at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking to F1's Beyond the Grid podcast, Christian Horner said he felt Hamilton had been "rattled" by Verstappen's consistency in 2021, and that hints of desperation had crept into his driving during the year.
Christian Horner throws desperation dig at Lewis Hamilton
Christian Horner saw his Red Bull team finally claim another world championship in 2021, eight years after their last title. Max Verstappen claimed the drivers' title after a dramatic season-long fight with Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Seven-times champion Hamilton was finally surpassed, after six championships in seven seasons prior to 2021.
Speaking to the official F1 podcast, Christian Horner explained how he felt Verstappen had gotten in Hamilton's head:
I think arguably moreso [Verstappen got] in Lewis' head [than vice versa].
He's the seven-time world champion, he has everything to lose. Max is the young kid taking the risks, throwing everything at it, who's got nothing to lose.
Some of [Max's] overtaking last year was stunning, and you felt that that started to rattle Lewis.
We definitely saw after Lewis qualified on pole at Silverstone and Max won the sprint race, Lewis 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.
There was an air of desperation building in as well. It was high-stakes stuff and the emotions run high, but it arguably impacted Lewis more than Max.
He had more to lose than Max.
Of course, Horner is referring to the opening of the British Grand Prix, which saw Hamilton and Verstappen make contact after a chilling opening lap of back-and-forth racing. The crash would see Verstappen out of the race, while Hamilton would ultimately win his home Grand Prix despite serving a penalty.
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Christian Horner would go on to insist that he had immense respect for Lewis Hamilton and his record-breaking achievements, which he said may never be surpassed.
Nonetheless, he insisted that Verstappen's attitude to taking on Hamilton had been crucial in the Dutchman's success in 2021:
Everybody is beatable at some point in time. Max had a respect for Lewis, but he wasn't in awe of him, he wasn't afraid of him.
He relished going up against him.
He believed that he could beat him.
Red Bull are once again locked in a title battle in 2022, with both the drivers' and constructors' championships within reach after the misfortune and misfires from Ferrari this season.
Christian Horner says that the strain put on the team by the intensity of last year's title battle has made this year's success all the sweeter:
2021, we were operating at an incredible level. We finally got a sniff of putting a challenge together for a world championship, and that was a 22-race championship bout. It was a heavyweight fight from race one to 22.
What's been particularly pleasing about this year is that despite the colossal regulation change we had to undergo going into this year...honestly, we thought that we'd probably compromised this year by putting everything we had into last year.
The team came up with an amazing car. Max has made another step, Checo's felt more part of the team this year with a lot more familiarity. To be sitting here having won 12 Grands Prix with 16 podiums so far has been an incredible season for us.
The 2021 title battle saw both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton operating at an incredibly high level and, though Hamilton and Mercedes have struggled this season, we can dream that we may see the two of them go head-to-head on track again sooner rather than later.