If he hadn’t felt it before, when Max Verstappen took the chequered flag at the Mexican Grand Prix he almost certainly would have then – the young Dutchman can end Lewis Hamilton’s monopoly on the F1 World Championship.
With victory in Mexico City, Verstappen opened up a 19-point cushion at the top of the standings with just four races remaining, and it will be incredibly surprising if he loses his supremacy from here given just how reliable the Red Bull RB16B has been this term.
Mercedes will once again be left to reflect on what might have been, with Valtteri Bottas taking pole and recording the fastest lap on race day, but it wasn’t to be for him nor Hamilton, who simply could not gain any ground on Verstappen at the business end of the race.
The sportsbooks are now convinced that the Dutchman is in pole position, if you’ll pardon the pun, to clinch a first F1 title and end Hamilton’s hopes of a record eighth championship win – for this season at least. The bookies make Verstappen the -300 favorite in their Formula One 2021 motorsports betting odds, and that is the clearest indication yet that the Brit’s metaphorical race is run.
But you suspect that he won’t give up hope of a miraculous recovery, and the Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is adamant that the championship battle is still alive and well. He was defiant in Mexico, and claimed: “None of us are ever going to leave this circuit with the mentality of this is going away from us. There’s four races to go, four wins to take, four DNFs to suffer. And we will just continue fighting.”
In Pursuit of Perfection
The issue, of course, is that Hamilton and Mercedes will now need to deploy perfect, no-mistake racing if they are to eat away at that 19-point margin.
And the difficulty of that could be increased given that some of the venues left on the 2021 itinerary have not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Hamilton in recent times.
Next up is the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paolo, and the unique Interlagos track is not one that the Brit has particularly fond memories of – he has only won twice here before, which is a pretty mediocre record by his incredibly high standards, and the last time that F1 headed to this venue in 2019 it was Verstappen, driving a Red Bull car that was inferior to the Mercedes, who prevailed.
Then we’ll have our first look at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar and the Jeddah Circuit in Saudi Arabia – Hamilton will have no experiential advantages at either of those, before he gets to return to a track that he and Mercedes love in Abu Dhabi… albeit one that has now been changed in nature.
But don’t forget that Verstappen won there in 2020 as well, and so the title run-in does seem to be heavily weighted in favor of the Dutchman.
Hamilton will return with Mercedes in 2022 alongside George Russell, and he’ll be hoping for a better run at the title then given that his hopes of smashing the record for most F1 wins this term looks to be all but over.