With the 2021 F1 season in the latter stages, the leeway for making mistakes is getting frighteningly small. Indeed, any type of lead in the drivers’ championship will be fiercely protected from here on in as the number of races left to make up any deficit run out. With this in mind, you can see how much pressure will be on both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen as they negotiate the straights and chicanes of the next six circuits, but who is most likely to triumph when the curtain falls on the season in Saudi Arabia in mid-December?
Mad Max needs to take a bit more risk
It seems a strange thing to say considering Verstappen’s performances this season, but the Dutchman needs to step out of his shell by taking a bit more risk if he is to win the championship for the first time. Indeed, the danger is that the 23-year-old becomes too defensive now that he is so close to his goal, which could see him freeze instead of leaving Hamilton in his dust. Looking back now on the events at the Turkish Grand Prix and how Verstappen ended up overhauling Hamilton’s lead, the truth is that his lead only came about because Hamilton was given a 10-place grid penalty after Mercedes changed the engine in his car.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2021
Had Hamiton started on pole and not eleventh then there is every chance that the Englishman would have increased his advantage over Verstappen in the drivers’ championship. Instead, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas didn’t look back after being bumped up to pole and won the race from his starting position. This leads us on to perhaps the most crucial development in the season so far and it is probably the time to discuss the fact that Mercedes seemed to have worked out all the faults in their engine, and subsequently surely unlocked hidden possibilities in the car. This undoubtedly gives them the advantage for the rest of the season.
Toto, I have a feeling we’re not going to be behind Red Bull anymore
When the wheels of Toto Wolff’s private jet left the runway at Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen International, the Austrian would have been feeling extremely confident about Hamilton’s chances of winning the F1 season despite only hours before surrendering his lead at the Turkish Grand Prix. This is due to the fact that Mercedes-AMG Petronas’ Team Principal feels increasingly confident that the team has worked out the gremlins in the engine and will have the faster car going into the remainder of the season. You can see why Wolff may well be feeling this way given that Mercedes finished ahead of Red Bull Honda Racing and won back-to-back Grand Prix in Russia and Turkey. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Hamilton cruised to yet another win in Russia in September, which looking back on now seems hugely significant. However, just as we think we’ve found conclusive proof of who may win the 2021 F1 season, we then have a spanner thrown in the works given that as of 12 October, Verstappen is still being priced as the favorite to win the drivers’ championship at odds of 4/7 with online betting site Betway.
Reflecting on the last 99… 🤯 still can’t believe it. THANK YOU 💜 pic.twitter.com/tPAPxZeicZ
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 28, 2021
Perhaps this is down to the fact that Verstappen has been consistent at winning, whereas, Hamilton has hoovered up points. Furthermore, he has also been unlucky such as at the street circuit in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after rear tyre failure just five laps from the finish saw him dramatically crash.
However, you do begin to think that Verstappen’s failure to capitalize on Red Bull’s early-season speed may now leave him vulnerable to being hauled in by Mercedes seeing that they have found their range after months of underperforming.
So, with all of this in mind, who will win the 2021 F1 drivers championship?
If Verstappen is going to win then he will need to outdrive Lewis Hamilton as the Englishman now certainly has the faster car. Indeed, there is no time for Max Verstappen to consolidate his lead with Mercedes now in the ascendancy. Hamilton has a great opportunity to cement himself as not only one of the foremost names in sports in his generation but also the best F1 driver of all time.
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