Hamilton lagging behind after Red Bull's 'big leap', but Verstappen wants more

By Sports Desk September 05, 2021

Max Verstappen feared Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were leaving Red Bull behind before Formula One's mid-season break, but the tables have turned and now the Dutchman wants to pull further clear.

Verstappen won five of the first nine races in 2021 to take control of the title race, only to then earn only five points across the next two races – three of them from sprint qualifying at Silverstone.

It meant Hamilton entered last month's break with a six-point advantage as he seeks a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship.

Red Bull regrouped, however, and Verstappen has claimed consecutive wins in Belgium, the country of his birth, and his home nation the Netherlands.

After his pole at the Dutch Grand Prix this weekend, the 23-year-old had complete control of the race at Zandvoort, able to hold off Hamilton and become the first Dutch driver to win at home.

Red Bull again showed greater pace than Mercedes, with Hamilton feeling the gap has widened since the season's resumption.

"I'm giving it everything. We're giving it absolutely everything," Hamilton told a post-race news conference.

"Even since the first race, these guys have just had such a strong car all year. We're trying as hard as we can.

"We had a couple of races where we looked like we were just about on par with them or just slightly ahead, but there's only been a couple of those.

"Then they took a big leap, and it's been difficult. You can't really overtake in a lot of these places we've been to, because we are so closely matched.

"There's nothing really more I can say – we just have to keep our heads down, keep working, keep pushing.

"We are ahead in the team championship, which is great, but of course we need to pick up some speed if we want to win races in future."

Verstappen explained this improvement was in response to Hamilton's performances in Great Britain and Hungary.

"For me, they had pole position at Silverstone, even though of course it didn't count as pole position, and they were ahead in Hungary, where they definitely had more pace than us," Verstappen said.

"Of course, Hungary was a crazy race with what happened, with the wet and the start, so I think you shouldn't look at stats.

"You should look at the realistic pace that there was and not look always at the race result, because I think definitely they would have won Hungary if everything went normal.

"That's why I really thought in the break, I was like, 'We really need to speed things up, because otherwise they're going to run away with it'.

"I think we did, we did pick it up a bit, [but] I feel like we still need a bit more.

"It's heading into the right direction, but there are quite a lot of different kind of tracks coming up, so it will definitely swing both ways. We just have to keep on it, keep pushing and keep bringing new bits to the car."

One area in which Hamilton has noted Red Bull progress all year long is with their Honda power unit, which made Verstappen "a rocket off the start" at Zandvoort.

"They've made a big, big step forward this year with their engine," Hamilton said. "You saw it last year, they weren't the greatest at starts.

"They've improved their power – just the whole power unit's massively better this year on all aspects for them.

"Naturally, their driveability and their starts... they're the quickest starters this year, I think, overall. We've got some work to do in lots of different areas."

Hamilton still could have won on Sunday, he felt, but Mercedes would have had to be "perfect".

"I think today we probably needed everything to be perfect to even have the slightest chance of getting past them through a strategy," Hamilton said.

"Pit stops needed to be on point, strategy needed to be on point, traffic also, but none of those three were ideal today."

Related items

  • 'It is a rule for the right reasons' – GPDA chairman Wurz backs F1 jewellery ban but wanted 'different' FIA approach 'It is a rule for the right reasons' – GPDA chairman Wurz backs F1 jewellery ban but wanted 'different' FIA approach

    Formula One's governing body the FIA could have taken a "different approach" to enforce the jewellery ban on drivers, even if it is right to impose the ruling.

    That is the message from Alex Wurz, who is regularly involved in education on driver safety in his role as Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) chairman.

    New race director Niels Wittich, who replaced Michael Masi at the start of the season, reminded drivers at the Australian Grand Prix in early April that the FIA's code prohibits drivers wearing jewellery in the car.

    Wittich reiterated the same message before the Miami Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton was embroiled in a stand-off with the FIA over piercings that he has raced with for years and says he cannot remove.

    The FIA prohibits wearing body piercings or neck chains in competition, but offered Hamilton a two-race grace period to remove all of his jewellery before the Monaco Grand Prix on May 29.

    Seven-time world champion Hamilton, who agreed to remove his earrings in the car for the Miami race, insisted Formula One risks taking "a step backwards" with "bigger fish to fry" in the sport.

    Wurz believes the ruling, which has been in place since 2004, should be enforced, but suggested the FIA could have handled the matter in a different fashion.

    "It is a rule for the right reasons," said ex-driver Wurz. "I would have probably liked a slightly different approach of how to deliver the message.

    "I don't want to end up in football where there are more hands in the air and verbal abuse...you have to work together. It's a style I would have preferred in this case."

    Wurz also said he could not forget a talk he attended in his younger days by Danish former driver Kris Nissen, who had a serious crash involving a fire accident at the Fuji circuit in Japan in 1988.

    "He showed his body and said 'look at this'," Wurz added.

    "For him the absolute most painful thing after fire, and it wasn't a long fire, was the rubber [elastic] in his normal pants being burnt into the skin. He said [it was] for years agony and pain. And it educated me.

    "At this moment I said I don't want to live these consequences, only for [not] taking my pants off and putting fireproof underpants on. The same with jewellery."

    Formula One next heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

  • 'I tried to make Bagnaia nervous' admits Bastianini after French Grand Prix win 'I tried to make Bagnaia nervous' admits Bastianini after French Grand Prix win

    Enea Bastianini said he tried to make Francesco Bagnaia "nervous" by overtaking him, a tactic that worked as he secured the win at the French Grand Prix on Sunday in MotoGP.

    To make Bagnaia's afternoon even worse, the Ducati rider crashed out just a few turns later.

    After working his way up from fifth on the grid, Bastianini made his way up to Bagnaia at the front before putting pressure on his fellow Italian.

    The drama arrived on lap 21 as Bastianini overtook Bagnaia before the latter immediately took his position back, only to hit the kicker and run wide.

    That allowed Bastianini to ease back into the lead, with Bagnaia's race ending after going into the gravel shortly after.

    "I'm really happy about this race. The weekend has been really complicated for me with some crashes," Bastianini said after his win.

    "In the race I see that my pace was really nice, and at the end when I see Pecco [Bagnaia] very close I understand 'okay now you have to stay behind', and I tried overtaking him in the second corner to make him a little bit nervous, and at the end he goes long and I win this race.

    "It's all for my team because they work a lot at this Grand Prix to give me the best bike, and it's incredible this job."

    Bagnaia started on pole alongside fellow Ducati rider Jack Miller, who did at least finish second, and the Australian explained why he had allowed Bagnaia to get back ahead of him early in the race.

    "The boys rode a strong race at the front there. Pecco wanted to pass me early on, it seemed like he had a bit better speed," Miller said. "I had good grip, I just wasn’t able to push off on that right-hand side.

    "Pecco wanted to pull away so I was like 'alright, go for it', but as soon as he got in the front he sort of started having moment after moment.

    "Then I saw Bastianini coming and coming. He put the move on me and to be honest I had nothing back for him until he and Pecco got into a bit of a battle, my lap times started coming down again there towards the end and I was actually able to come a bit closer to him, but yeah he was riding really well today."

  • Bastianini wins in France after Bagnaia crashes out Bastianini wins in France after Bagnaia crashes out

    Enea Bastianini secured a big win at the French Grand Prix after a battle with Francesco Bagnaia, which ended with the latter crashing out.

    Bagnaia started on pole alongside fellow Ducati rider Jack Miller, and led for most of the race.

    However, after working his way up from fifth, Bastianini overtook Miller and started making ground up on Bagnaia at the front.

    The drama arrived on lap 21 as Bastianini overtook Bagnaia, before the latter immediately took his position back, only to hit the kicker and run wide, allowing Bastianini to ease back into the lead.

    Matters got much worse for Bagnaia just a few turns later as he crashed out, seemingly trying too hard to make the ground up.

    Bagnaia had finished on the podium in six of his previous 12 MotoGP races (five wins), though had not reached it in any of his three Grand Prixs at Le Mans in the top category, and that run continued this time around.

    Miller came home in second to at least give Ducati something to cheer, while Aleix Espargaro held off a challenge from Fabio Quartararo to take third.

    Quartararo had finished on the podium in his previous two races and if he had done so in France, would have equalled his best run so far in the top category (three podiums in a row twice).

    Alex Rins and Joan Mir made it a weekend to forget for Suzuki Ecstar as they both failed to finish, with Rins crashing out early after losing control of his bike when re-joining the track from the gravel on lap three. Mir made an uncharacteristic error to also go down in the gravel.

    Marc Marquez finished sixth and has now collected points in his last nine MotoGP races (including two wins and three podiums), which was already his best run since 2019 and the best scoring run of any of the current riders.

    TOP 10

    1. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing)
    2. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo) +2.718secs
    3. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) +4.182s
    4. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +4.288s
    5. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +11.139s
    6. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +15.155s
    7. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) +16.680s
    8. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +18.459s
    9. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing) +20.541s
    10. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) +21.486s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 102
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) 98
    3. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing) 94
    4. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 69
    5. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo) 62

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 131
    2. Suzuki Ecstar 125
    3. Monster Energy Yamaha 121
    4. Ducati Lenovo 118
    5. Red Bull KTM 99

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.