Lewis Hamilton warned over Max Verstappen as F1 resumes at Belgian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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The epic championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is set to go down to the wire, according to F1 legend Gerhard Berger. Having trailed by 33 points at one stage, seven-time world champion Hamilton now holds an eight-point advantage ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa this weekend. But despite the shift in momentum Berger, who most notably raced for both Ferrari and McLaren during his 13-year F1 career, expects the title duel to swing back and forth up until the last race in Abu Dhabi in December. And the 61-year-old praised both drivers, and their respective teams, for creating a “unique” rivalry between Red Bull racing and Mercedes.
”I would have said a short time ago that Max will do it this year, but in F1 you should never underestimate the competition and take nothing for granted,” said Berger.
“Max should actually come to Spa-Francorchamps with a comfortable lead, but Mercedes and Hamilton have changed the situation – by all means.
”I’ve seen a lot of duels in F1 but this is unique, with the two top drivers, the technical geniuses behind them, with Wolff (Toto Wolff) against Marko (Helmut Marko) – they are all outstanding professionals who make for an incredible starting position.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision isn’t made until Abu Dhabi.”
Inevitably, both Red Bull and Mercedes are also at the top of the constructors’ standings with the latter holding a 12-point lead over their rivals, and although many other teams are already preparing for 2022, Berger has warned them not to expect any let-up from the top two next season.
”The duel for the title will cost those involved a lot of energy. Still, the two top teams will not be disadvantaged by this in the development of the new cars, they deal with it with their staff,” he added.
The title race has been given extra spice of late with Verstappen, 23, left furious after blaming Hamilton for their opening-lap collision at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone in July, which forced the youngster out of the race. Hamilton, 36, went on to win despite a 10-second time penalty and a subsuquent appeal from Red Bull for the English driver to be dealt a more severe penalty was turned down by the FIA.
Verstappen was later quoted as saying the penalty should have been more “severe.”
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And it seems inevitable there will be more twists to come, with 10 races remaining in what has been another Covid-disrupted season.
“It’s a lot of freak moments at the moment that cost us a lot of points,” said Verstappen, who is seeking his first F1 world title.
“They are of course very quick, but we never give up.”
Team boss Christian Horner added: “We’ve had six victories, and the races we’ve lost are with a tyre explosion (in Azerbaijan), being taken out at Silverstone, and then Hungary.
“I think we’ve got a lot to be positive about and the whole team is fully motivated.”
Should Hamilton prevail this season, he will stand alone as an eight-time world champion, with his current total of seven matched only by Michael Schumacher.
He already holds the record for the most Grand Prix wins, pole positions, and podium finishes, and heads into Sunday’s race in pursuit of his 100th F1 career victory.
Only last month, he signed a fresh two-year contract that will keep him at Mercedes until at least the end of 2023.
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