How Hamilton and Verstappen Will Go Into The US F1 Grand Prix

A Red Bull F1 car races down the Hudson River while promoting the second US F1 Grand Prix at Miami in 2022
Up next is the US F1 Grand Prix – another race where ‘fine margins’ will come into play in the Hamilton-Verstappen title battle. Has Mercedes raced ahead or will Red Bull strike back?

The 2021 Formula 1 season has proven to be one where it’s all pedal to the metal. The Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen battle will be remembered for seasons to come. Specialty wagering sites that usually handle Las Vegas NFL odds have been hard at work keeping up with what’s what in the Formula 1 championship battle. The focus is on both, the Drivers’ as well as the Constructors’ Championship. Now, with the US F1 Grand Prix ahead of us and with only a handful of races left in the season, the time has come for all the contenders to step up and deliver their best racing aptitudes and clinch what is seemingly going to be a title fight that will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

While we can talk about drivers that have been putting up very respectable performances like Valtteri Bottas, Sergio “Checo” Perez, and Lando Norris, the 2021 Formula 1 season has narrowed itself down to a two-driver battle between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. So, who’s looking best to take the US F1 Grand Prix, especially with the Driver’s Championship battle seeing a change in leader every other race? Here we break down how each one of the drivers, Hamilton and Verstappen will be coming into Austin, Texas come race time.

Lewis Hamilton

When speaking of who is the best Formula 1 driver in history, Lewis Hamilton’s name always comes up right up the top of the conversation lists. Hamilton, Mercedes’ star driver has proven time and time again that he is one of the most consistent drivers on the grid. In 2021, he’s scored five wins as well as six top-3 finishes. In the last race in Turkey, Hamilton probably missed out on a podium by ignoring his team’s pit call.

Hamilton’s race started on the back foot after Mercedes announced that they would change the ICE (internal combustion engine) on Hamilton’s car – a move that triggered a 10 place grid penalty for the start of the race. Despite being the fastest man in Saturday’s qualifying session, Hamilton started the race from P11. However, Hamilton showed why he’s one of the best drivers of this generation by climbing his way into the top-5 positions in the first 15 laps of the race. As the race progressed, Hamilton found himself with a chance to score a podium finish or even better, the race win by being one of the few drivers attempting to finish the race on a 0-stop strategy.

However, after ignoring Mercedes’ initial pit call, Hamilton found himself in no man’s land in terms of tyre strategy. While the podium was on offer, Mercedes’ simulation showed that Hamilton’s intermediate tyre would eventually drop off – a situation that would see him finish much lower in the points or worse, suffer from retirement. Mercedes opted for the safer option – to pit, a decision that saw them lose fewer points to Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship.

Now, with the upcoming US F1 Grand Prix the pressure will be back on Hamilton-Mercedes to reduce their points gap in the Drivers’ Championship. Hamilton has won the US F1 Grand Prix five times in history while Verstappen has stood on the podium in the last two edition (2018 & 2019).

Max Verstappen

For somebody who is largely assumed to as hot-headed, Verstappen has been as cool as a cucumber when it comes to dealing with the hype and aspirations around his title battle with Hamilton. His record this season stands at seven wins followed by five top-two finishes – and he is the driver who has led most number of laps this season. In Turkey, Verstappen drove a measured race to finish behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. In Turkey, Red Bull Racing’s RB16B lacked pace but Verstappen still managed to finish ahead of Hamilton and out-score him to reclaim the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

Presumably, neither Hamilton nor Verstappen will take on more power units or related parts and hence the grid penalties might be out of the equation in their tightly-contested title race. The race in Turkey also highlighted the role that Hamilton-Verstappen’s team-mates could play in the title battle over the remaining six races. Bottas claiming a win denied Verstappen more points while Sergio Perez drove fantastically well to keep a charging Hamilton at bay.

‘Fine margins’ have come into play in the 2021 Formula 1 season and they will continue to do so at the US F1 Grand Prix and all the way till Abu Dhabi. This season is one that will be remembered for the years to come!

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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