If he changed the engine, the world leader could lose 5 places in Jeddah but then have more horsepower in Abu Dhabi. The two rivals paired in the final duel if the Englishman wins in Arabia ahead of Max with the fastest lap
And now who stops him anymore? Who knows if this doubt has crept into a remote corner of Max Verstappen’s head, after Lewis Hamilton’s overwhelming victories in Brazil and Qatar. The seven-time world champion has changed gears, with the help of a Mercedes that has returned to being a spaceship, and the gap in the standings between the two has suddenly reduced from 21 points to 8 points when there are only 2 GPs left at the end of this one. heart-pounding championship. Lewis’s progression would take anyone from sleep. But his young rival this year showed a bombproof psychological seal, despite his young age, and for now he stands firm.
What a sprint
It is a titanic clash, between two phenomenal opponents for talent, speed, race vision and character. If Max hadn’t had the determination and self-confidence he has shown since his first moans in F1, he would probably have collapsed already, after nine months of grueling struggle against the driver who rewrote all the sport’s records. Instead, the challenge is more open and lively than ever, on the eve of the twenty-first race of 2021, which will be held on the new and very fast city circuit of Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia (5 December). The World Championship saw Lewis and Max go up and down like a roller coaster, with many changes at the top during the season, and uncertainty still reigns supreme. It seemed like a game that was already over, after Verstappen’s double in the United States and Mexico, where Red Bull-Honda had beaten the Black Arrows. Not at all. Another brace was enough, this time from Hamilton, to put the English champion and Mercedes back into play. Verstappen’s small nest egg is an undoubted advantage, and the point snatched from his rival in Qatar with the fastest lap could prove invaluable, but the Dutchman will not be satisfied with finishing two more times second behind Hamilton. He will have to win at least one of the remaining GPs, or finish in front of Lewis, in order not to risk being overtaken in a sprint on the wire. And if Hamilton beats Max in Jeddah, also making the fastest lap, they would be paired on equal points in the final race in Abu Dhabi. What a show.
In theory Verstappen could win the World Cup already in Arabia, if Hamilton were to have an accident or bad luck, but that wouldn’t be right. Both deserve the crown, for the spells they have shown on the track this year, and a final battle on the night of Abu Dhabi would be the worthy ending of the story. Max has won more races than Lewis (9-7), has made more pole positions (9-4) and has also had more negative episodes not dependent on his faults. It is in credit with fate. But this does not apply to the ranking. If he manages to grab his first title, he will have had to sweat it up to the last kilometer. It is a more difficult undertaking than it seems. Mercedes is growing rapidly, the new engine mounted in Brazil is an additional weapon and Hamilton is a specialist in sprinting. From the sensational one in 2008, when he blew the title from Ferrari driver Felipe Massa 300 meters from the finish line at Interlagos, to that of 2018 against Sebastian Vettel’s red. And even when he didn’t win, as in 2016 against Nico Rosberg, thanks to an engine that exploded in Malaysia, he showed his rival green mice with a streak of 4 wins in the last few races. No one like him knows how to raise the bar of performance when the decisive moment of a championship arrives.
The experience of Lewis, 36 years and 15 seasons in F1, could prove to be a deciding factor, although Verstappen showed exceptional maturity and clarity in 2021, despite his 24 years. But the technical aspect should not be underestimated: Max’s Red Bull has a power unit (the fourth) thrown into the fray in Sochi and used by 6 GPs. It will therefore have to be managed, so as not to jeopardize reliability, while Mercedes is ready to unleash the Brazilian engine on the Jeddah straights. It is clear that Verstappen will start from a disadvantage, unless Red Bull mounts a new thermal engine in turn, making him serve five penalties on the grid, with a benefit in Abu Dhabi. We will see what their strategy will be.
November 23 – 08:35
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Mercedes, assault on Verstappen: Hamilton on the attack with the V6 mounted in Brazil