Hakkinen impressed by Hamilton/Verstappen title duel

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 24.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, United States Grand Prix, Austin
© XPB 

Former Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen says he's impressed by the fierce battle raging between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen over this year's title.

The Finn welcomed the growth of the sport in the United States and was pleased to see how much enthusiasm was on display from the fans at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

"They were given a demonstration of why Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the title contenders at the moment," he wrote in his regular blog for Unibet.

"Both guys pushing incredibly hard all race, running different two-stop strategies which meant that tyre usage was critical," he continued.

"Austin is hard on tyres, even the hard compound tyres need to be looked after, so the sensitivity of the driver is all-important.

"After lap 50, when Lewis closed the gap to almost one second, Max managed to push it back open for two or three laps. That was a key moment.

"Although Lewis kept pushing until the chequered flag he realised Max had timed his strategy perfectly," he continued.

It was so interesting to watch how the weekend developed. After first practice it looked like Mercedes had a good advantage over the Red Bull-Hondas, although the World Champions admitted their engines were turned up.

"But as the track evolved and the effects of the bumpy circuit demanded some set-up changes the picture really changed," he added. "Max’s pole lap was a sign that he and his car really did have the pace needed to beat Mercedes.

Mika Hakkinen (FIN). 01.11.2019. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin

"But Lewis made such a great start that the pole advantage was lost into turn 1. It’s just brilliant to see these two guys fighting wheel to wheel with incredibly tight margins involved."

"It was also a strong weekend for Max’s team mate Sergio Perez who looked like he might take pole position," Hakkinen noted. "Although he started 3rd he was able to put enough pressure on Lewis to force him to make his first pit stop slightly earlier in order to avoid the undercut.

"Ultimately Sergio fell back, not helped by a drinks bottle that was not working. That made life difficult for him towards the end of the race - on a hot day, dehydration is not ideal when racing in F1!

"Max now has a 12 point lead over Lewis with five races remaining," he concluded. " While that’s important, a single non-finish caused by an accident or mechanical failure could swing the World Championship one way or the other.

"This is far from over, and both teams and drivers know that."

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