F1: Hamilton v Verstappen in numbers
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A former F1 driver has accused Max Verstappen of “dictating” his team-mate’s strategy at the United States Grand Prix to help the Dutchman fend off Lewis Hamilton’s charge and win the race. Red Bull has also been branded “bizarre” for allowing it to happen, with the team “sacrificing” Sergio Perez to help their title-challenging driver.
Verstappen claimed victory in Austin after showing a calmness and maturity to ignore the late charge from his title rival and focus on putting in the lap times needed to stay in front.
He also had the awareness earlier in the race to notice what was making Hamilton struggle a little, and suggested a strategy over team radio that they chose to follow.
The Dutchman spotted his Mercedes rival was sliding around a little and struggling for grip, and relayed that information to his race engineer before the team chose to bring him in early for an undercutting pit stop.
In order to make that work, though, they had to make sure Hamilton didn’t stay out too much longer or his tyres would be far more fresh later in the race – which might have been disastrous for Verstappen.
So he suggested the team bring in Perez, in the hope of forcing the Mercedes to pit as well to cover the Mexican – and that’s exactly what happened.
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In the end, Verstappen was able to keep his rival at arm’s length and extended his overall points lead to 12 with five races to go.
In his column for Formula1.com, British former racer Jolyon Palmer praised Verstappen for his performance but labelled the dynamic and influence he has with the Red Bull team as “bizarre”.
He wrote: “A driver trying to dictate the strategy of his team mate is pretty much unheard of during the race, but Red Bull duly brought Perez in, and Hamilton was forced to cover him.
“We know that Red Bull are sacrificing Perez from time to time, purely to aim for the drivers’ title.
“Even as early as Silverstone they pitted Perez out of the points, just so he could get fastest lap and stop Hamilton picking up the extra point.
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“It’s a slightly bizarre dynamic when the lead driver starts to suggest it as well though over the team radio, but it just shows how single-minded Verstappen is right now.
“He’s acting like a driver who has been here before and has the experience to read the race and make the right calls, even in these high-pressure scenarios.
“The entire team, including his team mate, are all pulling in the same direction. That was also clear by the way Perez offered no fight to Verstappen on the opening lap after Turn 1.
“He managed to seal the win in the end with a well-measured final stint on the hard tyres to hold off a charging Hamilton, who had eight-lap fresher tyres.”
He later added: “The management of the race by Verstappen was sublime and meant that he had enough tyres left, so that Hamilton couldn’t quite get close enough to launch a proper offensive.”
While the tactical gamble at Silverstone earlier in the season cost Perez points, it turned out perfectly for Red Bull in Texas as they managed to get both cars on the podium.
As well as helping Verstappen to win the race and extends his drivers’ standings lead, the race also did wonders for their push to wrestle control of the constructors’ championship.
Mercedes’ 36-point lead was cut to 23 by the result in the US, giving Christian Horner hope his team might yet be able to end Mercedes’ dominance in recent years.
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