Statistics are piling up in favor of Verstappen
A retirement could change everything, but statistics are mounting for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as he seeks to deny Lewis Hamilton an eighth Formula 1 championship record this season.
Sunday’s L1N2RK0GH United States Grand Prix victory at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin was the 24-year-old Dutch driver’s eighth out of 17 of 22 races, compared to five for the seven-time world champion Mercedes.
Seasons have more races now, but only once in the championship’s 70-year history has anyone won eight times and not finished champion.
That exception was Hamilton, who won 10 times in 2016, but lost to German teammate Nico Rosberg after a battle on the wire.
Also read: Verstappen Holds Hamilton to Double F1 Lead
Austin also saw Verstappen extend a record that may not be his for long.
No other driver has ever won so many career victories without winning a title, Verstappen’s 18 well ahead of the late British great Stirling Moss’ 16.
With five races remaining, Hamilton can’t match his 11 wins in 2020, 2019 and 2018 and the Briton will struggle to match his worst of the Mercedes-dominated turbo-hybrid V6 era – nine in 2017.
Verstappen can still equal the record jointly held by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013) of 13 wins in one season.
The youngster leads Hamilton 9-3 on pole positions and 13-12 on the podiums, the Briton ahead 5-4 in the fastest laps.
“Although Lewis has won world titles before, I don’t really see that as an advantage now,” said Australian Daniel Ricciardo of the maturity of former teammate Verstappen.
“I think Max can do it, he’s got a pretty steady head on his shoulders now and he’s proven it with some of the workouts he’s done this year.”
While it takes more omens, Hamilton never won the title when he wasn’t leading the championship before Austin, a circuit where he had won five wins in eight years and notched two crowns.
This year he was six points behind Verstappen, a gap now increased to 12.
“I would never declare that won in advance at this point in the season,” 1996 champion Damon Hill said on Sky Sports television on Monday.
“There are so many misadventures that happen in our sport and 25 points at stake for a win but nothing if you don’t finish, and that can obviously happen.
“He (Hamilton) really needs to start winning again. It’s eight-to-five wins against Max, so it looks like it’s Max’s title at the moment.”
The next two races will be held in Mexico and Brazil, both seen as favoring Red Bull, before a treble in the Middle East in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are new illuminated night races on the calendar.