Reliability will decide this year's title - Stewart

Jackie Stewart (GBR) 10.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy
ยฉ XPB 

Former Formula 1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart says that this year's epic title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will most likely be decided by reliability issues.

The normally bullet-proof Mercedes package has been looking on increasingly shaky ground this season, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas incurring grid penalties in order to add new engine parts to their reserves.

Red Bull have also had to add new components to their stores, but seem in a better position heading into the final five races of 2021 with just 12 points separating Verstappen and Hamilton in the drivers standings.

"It's going to end up with who is going to have the least mechanical failures, because both of them are both driving magnificently well," said the three-time champion, who also ran his own F1 team in in the 1990s.

"I think it could go to either of the drivers," he told Motorsport-Magazin this week. "I think in the end, because of the experience that the Mercedes team have - as well as the driver - they probably have the best chance to do it.

"Both of them are perhaps overdriving a little bit the present time, as we've seen, at least on two occasions," he added. "I hope that's been recognised in the most positive way.

A leading campaigner in his day for higher safety standards in Formula 1, Stewart is also hoping that the intensified rivalry between Verstappen and Hamilton doesn't end in disaster.

The pair clashed at the start of the British GP with Verstappen sent spinning into a heavy impact with the barrier. And another scary incident at Monza saw both drivers in the gravel with the Red Bull on top of the Mercedes.

"I wouldn't like to see anything nasty happening, although of course motor racing today is so safe," Stewart noted. "The accident that happened at Silverstone, in my day, he [Verstappen] would have died.

"Sometimes liberties are being taken that shouldn't be taken, so we've got to be careful with this," he warned. "Don't get too carried away by needing to win. To finish first, first you must finish.

Five-time Grand Prix winner John Watson echoed Stewart's thoughts on how the current title battle was going.

โ€œLewis has got every element in the toolbox to take the battle to Max,โ€ he told RacingNews365.com in an exclusive interview this week. โ€œWhat he needs is to have the performance, but most of all the reliability, to know that he can nail the car.

โ€œHe needs Mercedes to deliver at every one of the final five races," he added, saying that recent reliability concerns must be nagging at the back of the reigning world champion's mind.

โ€œItโ€™ll not affect his performance, but obviously if heโ€™s on the back foot then heโ€™s going to be limited in what heโ€™s going to be able to do.

โ€œThis is the first genuine championship competition in the hybrid era," he added. "Lewisโ€™ opposition has primarily only come from his own teammates, not a rival team, as is the case now.

โ€œIt has got all the makings of a stellar finale to the championship.โ€

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