And so we go again. Even harder and much, much faster. But I fear for what happens next.
After the summer break, Formula 1 plunges back into one of the most intense schedules in history with five races in just six weeks. Across some of the fastest tracks in world sport.
The uber-fast rolling hills of the Ardennes in the Belgian GP this Sunday are followed by Monza, where speeds top 360kph, straining in eighth gear – yes, eighth – for about four months between chicanes.
Bookended by these two leviathans is an old Dutch master, Vandvoort, superfast too but returning after a touch up to the patina with a burning orange cauldron of support for just one man, home hero Max Verstappen.
Three breathtaking battlegrounds for the Dutchman and his title rival Lewis Hamilton to wage war. Three tracks to match the drivers and the occasion. Three tracks after three weeks on the beach, which will do nothing to prevent the breakneck speed with which hostilities are sure to resume.
Not least because of Hamilton’s desperate actions at Silverstone which pitched the Dutchman into the barriers and hospital.
Hamilton dragged this historic rivalry into a dangerous quagmire. One in which trust and respect have been sacrificed for a slim advantage.
Once you know a rival is willing to accept you might end up in hospital because of what they’ve done to gain an advantage the game changes. Forever.
And let’s be honest here: Verstappen is the 23-year-old usurper, the future, the revolutionary looking to set fire to the establishment. Like many newcomers, he has only ever known Mercedes champions. And, like most, he is desperate for change.
Bizarrely Hamilton, of all people, is now that establishment. The Pretorian of the old guard. One title away from retirement. But a beacon, through no fault of his own, of a self-involved sport, a chequebook championship.
That needs to change and the sport’s owners Liberty Media, have it in their crosshairs for 2022.
But Hamilton is focused on today. The last two races handled in his own unique fashion. He led just six of the last 119 laps and yet finished first and second, harvesting 45 of a possible 55 points.
What’s that old adage that the only lap you have to lead is the last?
Hamilton wins in Hungary
By comparison the rails came off for a rampant Verstappen. Punted off by the Merc duo in successive races he earned just five points of 55.
A 32 point lead morphed into an eight-point deficit. So he returns in a mean mood to make amends. He didn’t need an incentive but he’s got one.
Hamilton can be sure, too, the trust has gone in their wheel-to-wheel relationship. He opened Pandora’s box. When he threw the nose of his Mercedes down the inside at Silverstone he changed everything.
Red Bull’s man emerged from A&E with a grudge. Outwardly he has brushed it off but you can bet he carries the notion Hamilton is owed one. That he’s one DNF down.
That’s the DNA of drivers: an eye for an eye. Not usually in a malicious ‘I’ll put you in hospital’ kind of way but in the reality that you are more inclined to shoot at someone if they are shooting at you.
Respect, after all, is reserved for equals, not underlings.
Red Bull’s man will be less reluctant to make manoeuvres that endanger Hamilton. He’ll care a little less if the result is a Mercedes beached in the sand. So to speak.
Both will race knowing they are in a 300kph nether world of second guesses. A sphere in which the biggest accidents happen.
Hamilton will race looking in his mirrors a little more often when Verstappen is around. Which will probably be most of the time. And vice versa.
I fear for what happens next. I really do.
Hamilton and Verstappen do not mean each other harm but they want the same piece of tarmac at the same time.
And their careers meet at the same crossroads. Hamilton wants title No 8. Verstappen wants No 1 and a foot on that same ladder. It’s a rock and a hard place.
But someone has to give.