Image: Wikimedia Commons / Morio
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Morio

Verstappen vs Hamilton battle continues into second half of the season

Tensions between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton once again ramped up both on and off the track in the final few races before the summer break. With the second half of the season to go, the title fight is all to play for.

Before focusing on the drivers, the scene should quickly be set with the Constructors’ Championship. Mercedes have dominated since Red Bull’s last win in 2013. Last year, Mercedes finished the season on 573 points compared to Red Bull’s 319. This year, Red Bull is only 12 points behind Mercedes at the summer break, so will they be able to put an end to Silver Arrows’ reign by the end of the season? 

Red Bull will give it everything they’ve got to try and take the Championship title, and they have a solid chance. Right now, the points are tight, and Verstappen is key to Red Bull’s hopes, with their faith in his ability to get the most out the car absolutely crucial to their potential victory.

From the start of the season Verstappen vs Hamilton has been a rivalry to watch out for. This came to a head at the British Grand Prix, where Hamilton’s move up the inside of Verstappen on Lap 1 sent the Red Bull driver crashing into the barrier. Despite a 10-second time penalty, and with Verstappen sent to the hospital as a precaution, Hamilton still managed to take the win. However, the story didn’t end there. Verstappen was clearly angered by the seven-time world champion and made his feelings clear when he branded Mercedes’ celebrations “disrespectful” as the team appeared to not want to acknowledge the danger of the situation. 

Verstappen’s bad luck continued, as despite going into the Hungarian Grand Prix at the top of the driver’s standings, another first lap collision left him unable to maintain his position. The loss of 25 potential points saw him relegated to second place in the title race going into the summer break; a sure blow after a successful start to the season. However, with only eight points separating the first and second, the fight is far from over. Despite the setbacks, Verstappen made it clear in an interview with Red Bull that he’s ready to “keep pushing” and isn’t going to give up. 

Whilst Hamilton is probably the best driver on the grid at the moment, Verstappen is catching up fast

The first race of the second half of the season, the Belgian Grand Prix, is just around the corner, and it could once more flip the positions at the top of the championship. Yet this time, Verstappen has to play catch up. The question is: who has the best chance at Spa?

In 2020, Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix – and has won it four times overall – while Verstappen came in third. That said, the Dutch driver (who has a dual Belgian-Dutch nationality) has been on winning form this year, winning five races to Hamilton’s four. His recent bad luck is only likely to make him increase his aggression on the track and push harder to win. 

Plus, Spa is known to be one of the best circuits for overtaking, which is good news for Verstappen. Helmut Marko, advisor for the Red Bull F1 team and head of their driver development programme, recently stated when talking to Auto Motor und Sport that he believes Verstappen is better than Hamilton when it comes to overtaking; a track suited to this could benefit him. 

Yet, Hamilton is undeniably the more experienced of the two drivers and his skill and calm demeanour could allow a repeat of his 2020 victory. His results in the last two races before the break have been the better of the two, and passing Verstappen in the title race means that the Dutchman is now the one fighting from below (which could lead to riskier actions from the younger driver). Not to mention that the summer break will have been a great opportunity for Hamilton to recover after his struggle with long Covid and come back fitter and stronger, as he’s shown on his social media platforms. 

Even so, with the odds generally looking quite even between the two, an uncontrollable incident like Valtteri Bottas’ Hungarian ‘bowling game’. The crash – which took out five drivers and caused considerable damage to a number of cars including Verstappen’s – changed everything for the Dutch driver in Hungary and could again be a deciding factor in Belgium.

The following weekend is the Dutch Grand Prix, and with the crowds sure to be orange for Max at his home race, he’s bound to come out fighting. Overall, the title fight is set to remain just as tight in the second half of the season as it has so far, and neither driver is going to let the other win easily. 

While Hamilton is probably the best driver on the grid at the moment, Verstappen is catching up fast and isn’t afraid to push himself and his car to their limits. Personally, I think Verstappen could well beat Hamilton at Spa, as he’s bound to come back hungrier than ever after his unlucky last few races, and the track suits his strengths as a driver. Yet, it will remain to be seen: can Max Verstappen take Hamilton’s title crown and become the 2021 Formula One World Champion?

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