Max Verstappen can cut Lewis Hamilton’s four-year championship streak, right in the penultimate race at Jeddah on December 5. Victory in Qatar helps Hamilton shorten the gap with leader Verstappen to eight points. That means if Hamilton finishes fifth or earlier in Saudi Arabia, the championship race will be decided at the final stage in Abu Dhabi.
What does Verstappen need to win the Saudi Arabia GP?
In the remaining cases, Verstappen is likely to win the championship one stage early. The maximum number of points a racer can earn at a stage is 26, with 25 points for the first finish and one point for the fastest lap. To win early, the Red Bull driver must win 18 points more than Hamilton in Jeddah.
If Hamilton finishes sixth or later, Verstappen needs to finish first and win the fastest-lap. If Hamilton finishes seventh or slower, Verstappen needs to finish first. If Hamilton finishes 10th or later, Verstappen needs to finish second with the fastest-lap. And if Hamilton doesn’t earn any points, which means he finishes outside the top 10, Verstappen needs to finish second.
The difference of at least 18 points between the two drivers has only occurred in two stages this season. It was in Monaco when Verstappen won, with the Mercedes driver in seventh, and in Silverstone when Hamilton finished first and Verstappen had to give up because of an accident.
If Verstappen and Hamilton are tied on points, the championship will be determined by the number of stages won. The Dutch driver won nine races, two more than Hamilton. That means Verstappen will definitely win if the two drivers are equal on points.
The championship race for teams is even more intense, when Mercedes is only five points ahead of Red Bull. To be crowned one stage early, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas need to earn 38 points more than Verstappen and Sergio Perez in Jeddah. This is unlikely, so the last leg in Abu Dhabi will decide the winner.
Verstappen widens the gap with Hamilton
The first advantage was broken right from the opening, but Max Verstappen still defeated rival Lewis Hamilton at the American Grand Prix on Sunday night October 24.
Despite Hamilton’s excellent results at the test laps, the Red Bull driver still excelled to win the pole. In the official race on Sunday, Verstappen started but soon lost his position from the first corners. Hamilton showed his acumen by capturing the optimal lane better than his opponent, thereby taking advantage of the good speed advantage of the W12.
Following Hamilton through the early laps, Verstappen gained confidence from the actual speed on the track. Thereby, Red Bull decided to actively attack the opponent to soon occupy the position. The Austrian racing team brought Verstappen back to change the tires at the earliest in the 10th round, while Hamilton and Mercedes did not dare to enter the pit after the opponent, but tried to keep the tire to attack at the end of the race.
However, the fact that Verstappen has the support of Sergio Perez right behind Hamilton makes Mercedes’ plans change. The German team could not delay the time to return to the pit because Perez was called to change tires on lap 12 and could threaten to hinder Hamilton if the British driver changed tires late. Mercedes was forced to call Hamilton to change tires in lap 13. When he returned to the track, the British driver fell behind and lost the first place to Verstappen.
In the second half of the race, Verstappen and Hamilton trailed Perez. Verstappen changed his tire a second time on lap 29, with 27 laps remaining, and Hamilton came in eight laps behind his rival. Mercedes tries to give Hamilton a lot of tire advantage to attack the opponent at the end of the race.
When he returned from the pit in round 37, Hamilton was 9 seconds behind Verstappen. He managed to keep the tire in the early laps before going all out in the final stages, reducing the gap from 8.4 seconds to 3.9 seconds in just five laps.
When the race was only six laps, Hamilton was only 1.5 seconds away from the Dutch driver, but this time Verstappen accelerated and kept the same speed, sometimes even better than Hamilton. With two laps remaining in the race, Hamilton reduced the distance to less than a second, but it was too late. He did not have enough time to attack the first place.
After finishing first, Verstappen sighed: “We lost the lead after the start and had to try to change our tactics to make a difference. The wear of the tires here is quite large and we had to break out. speed. I wasn’t sure at the time that this tactic would work. It was great to finish the race as planned.”
Hamilton praised his opponent: “Max played very well today. It was a tough race. I had a good start, could have been won but at the end of the race, Red. Bull has the upper hand again, I can’t do anything more.”
With a crucial win at Austin and six points off the American Grand Prix, Verstappen widened the gap to Hamilton to 12 points while the season was only five races away. The race promises to be very interesting at the end of the race.
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