The British Grand Prix weekend is about to kick off and what a difference a year makes. World Champion Max Verstappen is revisiting the site of his horrific crash at Silverstone last year, which marked a dark turn in the championship battle against home bet Lewis Hamilton.

The aforementioned Red Bull and Mercedes drivers were in a tight battle for the title last year, and as the season progressed and grew more intense, so did the animosity on and off the track. Accusations of dangerous driving were thrown around, and it all came to a head when the pair collided in the opening lap at the British Grand Prix. Verstappen ended up in the hospital after a high speed crash into the barriers, while Hamilton escaped unscathed, going on to take the victory.

Red Bull did not appreciate the seven-time world champion's celebrations, especially while their driver was being treated at the hospital at that time for bruising and other ill-effects of the high speed impact.

The intensity, or some would say "toxicity" of the battle only got worse from there, especially after the controversial finale in Abu Dhabi.

This year, the F1 circus heads to Silverstone with a much friendlier vibe between the championship leaders. Incidentally, Verstappen is the favourite to win the title, alongside teammate Sergio Perez. Their main rivals in 2022 are the Ferrari drivers, with Charles Leclerc leading teammate Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc blazed to an early 40-point lead in the championship, but Red Bull caught up quickly, winning the last six races. Verstappen and Perez now hold the top two positions, with 175 and 129 points respectively.

Reliability issues have pushed Leclerc back to third place with 126 points, despite his Ferrari showing impressive pace. He has been consistent in qualifying, but had to retire his car from the lead on two occasions.

There may be a wide gap in points at the moment, but the momentum can swing around easily and things are very intense. However, the competition has been amicable thus far, with on-track wheel to wheel battles staying clean between Leclerc and Verstappen - a far cry from last season.

Hamilton's new teammate George Russell is in fourth place with 111 points, just ahead of the second Ferrari of Sainz with 102 points. Hamilton is all the way back in 6th place with just 77 points to his name, a whopping 98 points behind championship leader Verstappen.

There are hardly any battles between Verstappen and Hamilton on the track this season, but the Briton did steal the spotlight from the title favourite once again in the leadup to Silverstone. Hamilton became embroiled in a racism controversy in the days before the race, after an old interview with three-time world champion Nelson Piquet resurfaced online.

In the clip, Pique was talking about the Silverstone crash when he used a contentious term to refer to Hamilton, one that is believed to be the Portuguese equivalent of the N-word. Piquet has since issued a statement to clarify that he did not use the term in a racist manner, but that did not stop the FIA from investigating the incident. According to numerous reports, the Brazilian former driver may be handed a lifetime ban from entering the F1 paddock.

Hamilton is also in the news due to a row with the FIA about the jewellery that he insists on wearing in the cockpit despite a rule against it.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen celebrates victory in Canada AFP / Geoff Robins