On Saturday, Max Verstappen was frustrated at missing out on pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. He should have been quickest but ended up third after putting a wheel on the grass on his final quick run. As he left his post-session interview, he brushed past Lewis Hamilton on the way to his. Hamilton looked back quizzically. Intentional or not? Impossible to say. On Sunday, the pair made contact again, but this time in the heat of battle. From third, Verstappen took the lead by Imola’s first corner, as he launched his Red Bull off the line to perfection, passing team-mate Sergio Pérez and up the inside of the Mercedes into the first chicane. In damp and tricky conditions he left Hamilton almost, but not quite, enough space as wheels touched, leaving his rival to ride roughly over the kerbs, damaging his front wing. Hamilton complained, but Verstappen kept the lead that he would never relinquish, leaving him just a single point off the championship lead. It was a move which not only highlighted the very fact that the threat Hamilton faces is a real one but also its very nature. In 2021, Hamilton could be facing his toughest competitor for some years. It is wrong to say that Hamilton has waltzed to all his six Mercedes championships because competition has been lacking. It is true of his last two titles in 2019 and 2020 but Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari took some beating – though they ultimately beat themselves – and team-mate Nico Rosberg was no pushover. The strength of the 36 year-old's rivals since Rosberg left F1 has not been as significant or as sustained as his talent warrants. Aside from Vettel, Valtteri Bottas is too compliant, and Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have so far posed only an occasional threat. This, really, is the main point frustration of his dominance in the last three seasons.