Lewis Hamilton’s elite state of mind amid Max Verstappen battle as F1 rivalry intensifies | F1 | sport


It’s been a long time since seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was underdog, but with rival Max Verstappen now in charge of the standings, could there be a new sheriff in town?

Many have entered the season desperately trying to pick a new narrative for the championship after seven years of F1 labeled “boring” as Mercedes dominated the hybrid era, alongside Hamilton.

The Briton hopes to become the most successful driver in history with an eighth world title, but now in his 15th F1 season he finds himself in the most precarious position after seven rounds, behind his 18-year-old title rival Verstappen. points.

This is the first time Mercedes has truly felt the warmth of a rival team since 2018, when Sebastian Vettel battled Hamilton with Ferrari, leading the table from the start.

Still, it came to an end in Mexico as Hamilton dominated the latter part of the season. Vettel had to win the Grand Prix and Hamilton finished eighth or less for the championship to remain in contention.

The German was second, but Hamilton was fourth, which was enough to win his fifth drivers’ championship with three races to go. Mercedes has since become untouchable again.

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This season we have seen something similar from Verstappen, who led from the start, but we have also seen something very different from Mercedes and Hamilton, who have failed to find answers to the pace of Red Bull. .

Not only that, but Hamilton is currently in talks with his squad to continue in the sport, with team principal Toto Wolff saying he couldn’t imagine Hamilton wouldn’t be racing for Mercedes, adding that the 36-year-old years was as impatient as always.

“He’s very hungry,” Wolff said. “It’s a very new situation for him as well as it’s so tight in battle with another team and another driver and he’s in a very good mood.”

Monaco were the swing with the Dutchman taking control of the standings thanks to a tough weekend for Mercedes.

Baku also lent itself well to Red Bull, and despite a Verstappen bursting a tire, the team still came out on top of the driver and squad standings without any points scored by their main rivals.

Hamilton had recorded 54 consecutive points ahead of Baku, an all-time record.

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The Briton and Mercedes then looked to bounce back in France but, despite a marked improvement over the previous two races, a smart strategic call from Red Bull allowed Verstappen to extend his lead at the top of the table to 12 points ahead of two rounds. in Austria. .

But in the seventh round, the reigning world champions were outclassed by Red Bull and Verstappen at the Styrian Grand Prix, which left Mercedes scratching their heads and Hamilton demanding improvements from the car.

“It was really a lonely race,” said Hamilton, after finishing 35 seconds behind his main rival.

“I was trying to follow these guys but the speed they have, obviously they made some improvements in the last couple of races and it was impossible to keep up.

“I don’t know where we’re losing all the time but their long runs seem to be better, they seem to be able to keep doing those laps and in the straight we lose a lot, or we feel like we lose a lot in the lines straight.

Still, Hamilton appears to be shaken up this season. He might be hungry, but the pressure on his shoulders must be immense with a team used to being the best.

As for Red Bull, their form has breathed new life into “boring” Formula 1, and as Toto Wolff said, the battle is “just what the doctor ordered”.

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