Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s team-mates under increasing pressure as title heats up

F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?

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Former world champion Mika Hakkinen believes Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s team-mates will have an “increasingly important role” as the Formula One world title battle enters its final stages.

After finishing second in Turkey, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen now has a six-point cushion over Lewis Hamilton with just six races remaining of the 2021 season.

Yet, the Turkish Grand Prix proved to be a strong race for the title protagonists’ wingmen, with Perez crucially holding off Hamilton during the race, and Bottas taking victory for Mercedes over Verstappen.

“On a day when Lewis had to take a 10-place grid penalty as the result of an engine change, Valtteri did everything that his team could hope for,” Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.

“Sergio has had some difficult races recently, so this was a great performance and good timing for the team.

“As we move into the final six races in the World Championship I think that Valtteri and Sergio will come to play an increasingly important role in providing Lewis and Max with the right level of support and strategy options. 

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“Max only leads the world championship by six points, so with 156 points available during these final races the title could swing one way or the other very quickly.”

Heading to what has been hailed “Hamilton territory” by Red Bull boss Christian Horner, the championship is set to go down to the wire, with Horner’s counterpart at Mercedes Toto Wolff warning a DNF could be incredibly costly at this point in the season.

Speaking after the Turkish Grand Prix, Wolff said: “In the end, we lost eight points today [Sunday] to Red Bull from a grid penalty and Red Bull last week were happy with a seven-point loss.

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“It’s going to be very tight until the end [of the season].

“DNFs are going to make the big difference and that was also a consideration today, not three or four or five-point swings.”

Hakkinen, who is no stranger to championship battles after winning the title in 1998 and 1999 respectively, believes Mercedes seem to have taken a significant step, which could be a big concern for Red Bull.

“What is also clear from the weekend is that the Mercedes car has moved ahead of the Red Bull in terms of performance,” he said.

“Lewis and Valtteri were quickest in qualifying, and Max is admitting that Red Bull have some work to do if they are to win this World Championship.”

F1 continues in a fortnight’s time in Austin for the USA Grand Prix for round 17 of the championship. 

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