F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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Red Bull star Max Verstappen can make a big statement as he competes with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for the Formula 1 world title at the United States Grand Prix. The Milton Keynes-based outfit are 36 points behind the Silver Arrows in the Constructors’ Championship.
Mercedes have triumphed in each of the last seven years and are looking to complete a sweep of the titles in the current turbo hybrid era.
It is tight at the top in both the constructors’ and drivers’ standings as the season enters the final straight with just six races remaining.
Red Bull’s prodigy Verstappen currently leads seven-time world champion Hamilton after the Brit slipped to fifth from P3 due to a strategy error at the Turkish Grand Prix.
Verstappen came home in second with teammate Sergio Perez completing the podium but with Valtteri Bottas claiming the win and Hamilton performing well before the mistake, Mercedes will be pleased with their position as their car looked to have a clear power advantage over their rivals.
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If the Dutchman can come away with an unlikely win, it would be a huge statement – particularly with five races remaining once the travelling circus that is Formula 1 leaves Austin, Texas.
It would have to be an impressive drive from the 24-year-old as Red Bull have not won at the Circuit of the Americas since Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag in 2013 – the same year as the team’s last world championship win.
Since then, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have dominated with the Brit claiming four straight wins before Kimi Raikkonen – driving for Ferrari at the time – came home in first place.
The Silver Arrows returned to the top step of the podium 12 months later as Valtteri Bottas claimed the 2019 win.
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If Verstappen is able to survive one of Hamilton’s preferred and productive tracks with his lead intact, it could be a significant moment in the season.
It would be particularly encouraging for the Dutchman, who is chasing a maiden world championship, as the Mexican Grand Prix is two weeks later.
Verstappen and Red Bull tend to excel at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, winning there in successive years between 2017 and 2018.
However, Hamilton claimed victory in 2016 and 2019 – the last year the race was held after it was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic – and Mercedes won in 2015 too as Nico Rosberg dominated the field.
This weekend’s race comes amid questions from Red Bull regarding Mercedes’ dramatic improvements in straight-line speed at recent races.
Red Bull’s request for the FIA to investigate the Mercedes power unit was thrown out, and while driver programme boss Helmut Marko admitted he does not suspect any foul play from the German manufacturer, his team is not going to stop pressing the issue.
Formula 1 returns to Texas for the United States Grand Prix on October 24, with Red Bull’s Verstappen holding a slender six-point lead over Hamilton.
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