Has Verstappen Lost The Plot?
In recent weeks, the chase for the Formula One world driving title first tightened up, then it changed into familiar hands. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, seeking his fifth straight title and record eighth career world crown, has overtaken Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton moved into a 195-187 lead in the points standings as F1 returned from its midseason break. Hamilton finished second in the Hungarian Grand Prix behind first-time winner Esteban Ocon, claiming 18 points. Meanwhile, Verstappen was a distant ninth in his Honda, garnering a paltry two points.
The change in positions has also taken place in the F1 betting odds. Hamilton now holds forth as the -155 odds-on favorite to win the F1 world driving title. Verstappen has dropped down to the second betting choice at odds of +110.
“We clearly were just lacking a bit of pace all weekend,” Verstappen told Sky F1. “Not finding the best balance with the car.”
It’s still a close race. Verstappen actually holds a 5-4 edge over Hamilton in wins this season. Both drivers have achieved eight podium finishes.
“Max Verstappen” by Autosport is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Oddsmakers aren’t prepared to completely write off Verstappen’s chances of rebounding to regain control. He’s actually favored to win the next race on the F1 calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix. Winless in his last two starts, Verstappen has not gone more than two races between victories this season.
However, F1 insiders are of the belief that the steady hands of Hamilton won’t let go of his grip on the title now that he’s the front runner.
Verstappen Loses Cool
Verstappen angrily stopped a reporter in mid-sentence when a question was posed during a pre-race media session in Hungary. The reporter’s query had to do with the first-lap collision between Hamilton and Verstappen in the previous race at Silverstone. That accident put Verstappen out the race, which was eventually won by Hamilton
“Can we just already stop about this?” SkySports reported Verstappen as responding to the question. “We had so many (expletive) questions about this, it’s just ridiculous. Honestly. The whole of Thursday we have been answering this stupid (expletive) all the time, so can we just stop about it please?
“We are racers, we will race. Of course, we are going to race hard but fair. We just keep pushing each other.”
For his part, Hamilton simply sat back calmly and smiled while Verstappen reached his boiling point.
Wolff Takes It In Stride
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff also took a hands off approach when asked about Verstappen’s response during the press session. He chalked it up to media looking to stir things up and create an ongoing controversy.
“It’s exciting,” Wolff said. “You guys and everybody needs headlines and that keeps the sport interesting. It keeps stitching us up.
“But none of them has lost respect for each other. The good ones recognize performance, so let’s see what happens.”
Rosberg Favors Hamilton
Granted, he might be just a bit biased but former world F1 driving champion Nico Rosberg is one observer who believes that the edge in the pursuit of the crown is now advantage Hamilton. The 36-year-old veteran has literally been there and done that
“Lewis has been through everything already so he’ll know how to deal with that,” Rosberg said of the stress of pursuing the title. “He’s very smart, he knows how to deal with all the different situations which are thrown at it. He’s smart at saying the right things in the press.
Rosberg felt that Verstappen’s outburst displayed the fact that being the frontrunner was an entirely new experience for the 23-year-old Dutch driver, who’s spent his F1 career chasing Hamilton and Mercedes.
“Verstappen lost his cool after a journalist asking if they were going to touch again in turn one,” Rosberg noted. “Verstappen shouted, whereas Hamilton just shrugged his shoulders, that showed a position of strength from him.
“Mercedes have the upper hand in everything now. In pace, posture and attitude. I would say if you look, Verstappen lost his cool in the press conference, shouting at the journalists which all plays into the hands of Mercedes at the minute.”
When Rosberg won his F1 world driving championship in 2016, his teammate was Hamilton.
Featured Photo Max Verstappen by Autosport is licensed under CC BY 3.0