“If Formula 1 were a tennis match, I would say the ‘advantage is Hamilton’ after his dominant victories in Brazil and Qatar. Although Max Verstappen is eight points ahead in the world championship, Mercedes has responded by giving Lewis Hamilton a car with which he can really fight to defend his title,” Mika Hakkinen opens his regular column for betting office Unibet. In Qatar there was indeed no measure against seven-time world champion Hamilton. He was convincingly fastest in qualifying and in the race he led from start to finish without being threatened at all.
Competitor Verstappen had to start the race in Losail in seventh place after a grid penalty, but quickly fought back to second place. He then held that flag until the finish. “After the drama in Brazil, Qatar was Max’s turn to receive a grid penalty for failing to brake for double yellow flags – one of the key safety rules in Formula 1 requiring drivers to slow down and be prepared to come to a complete stop. come”, Hakkinen shows understanding for the five-place grid penalty that the Dutchman received for the offence.
Sporting war between Mercedes and Red Bull
The difference in the drivers’ championship is therefore still eight points in favor of Verstappen after the race in Qatar, while Mercedes is five points ahead of the constructors. The battle is not only fought on the asphalt, but also in word and deed outside the track. “In my view, we see a sporting war between Mercedes and Red Bull,” said Hakkinen. “It’s a battle between Lewis and Max, team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner and the 2,000 people who work for them. We’ve already seen some tense moments and I’m sure there will be more.”
And in between is the FIA, which has to steer everything in the right direction. Hakkinen knows this is not an easy job. “They made some difficult decisions in Brazil [met de diskwalificatie van Hamilton na de kwalificatie] and in Qatar they had to do the same,” the Finn continues his story. “What it shows is that the officials are doing their best to take a balanced approach by letting the drivers race, but also reminding everyone to follow the rules. Otherwise chaos will ensue.”
After a weekend of rest, the GP of Saudi Arabia is scheduled for early December. Where Hakkinen sees ‘Hamilton advantage’, it can also be argued that Verstappen is at match point for the first time in Jeddah. He needs to score eighteen points more than his rival to secure the title, something Hakkinen says will be a tough one. “On a track that seems to give cars with good top speed an advantage, Hamilton will go for nothing less than victory. If he wins in Saudi Arabia and sets the fastest lap with Max in P2 – which is quite possible – the two drivers will go to the last race with the same number of points. That would be an exceptional end to what has been an incredibly exciting season.”