Verstappen picking his “moments to shine” in Hamilton title fight

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen says the competitive car Red Bull have produced this year means he can take a more cautious, points-gathering approach in his fight for the Formula 1 title with Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton leads Verstappen by one point at the top of the standings after two races ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix at Algarve.

Speaking in Thursday’s press conference at the track, Verstappen said his focus is to “try to make the least mistakes possible” at each weekend this year to maximise his points haul. But he denied that means risking not getting the most out of his car.

“I don’t think you lose speed,” Verstappen said. “It’s just choosing your moments when to shine.”

“I mean, you have to understand that if it’s not your day, then you have to settle for a certain result,” he explained. “Whereas in the past, we had sometimes a car where we could win races, but we knew we were not in a championship fight so you might risk it a bit more.

“Of course, when you are in a championship fight or at least you know that you have a car which can be competitive more often, your approach does change a little bit because you cannot afford to lose too many points in a weekend where, let’s say, you’re not at your top level.

“So I think that’s what we always have to make sure that even if we don’t have a perfect weekend, we still score a lot of points.”

Verstappen said he is prepared for the possibility Red Bull won’t have the quickest car at some races this year, despite their strong start to the season. Red Bull were considered to have the advantage in Bahrain, where Hamilton won, while Verstappen stood on the top at Imola two weeks ago after Mercedes had been faster in qualifying.

“I always feel confident. That’s nothing to do with if you win a race or not,” he said. “I just hope that we are, again, very competitive as the last two races.

“But again every single weekend you just have to make sure that you’re on top of the car, to try to get the best out of it, because it’s so close between us and Mercedes that you really do have to get the best out of it to make a difference. And that’s what we’ll try to do again this weekend.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Elliot Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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15 comments on “Verstappen picking his “moments to shine” in Hamilton title fight”

  1. Finally the penny drops.

    Jedi master Hamiltion “finally you understand the nature of force, my young padawan”

    1. “Finally the penny drops.”
      Translates into: Red Bull has finally build a car allowing Max to take a more measured approach.

      “Jedi master Hamiltion”
      Aka: The guy who parked his car in the wall last race. (Only to be miraculously saved by the dark side.)

      1. I blaim that sith apprentice – Russell

        :: Still looking for his Sith lord ::

        1. If it isn’t Toto then I’ll be a flying monkey’s uncle.

          Reply moderated
        2. aah that’s maybe someone called TW?

          1. Coventry Climax
            30th April 2021, 13:46

            What’s Tom Walkinshaw got to do with it?

      2. As Niki mentions, I think Verstappen talked about this last year already, that he just doesn’t have the car to be able to take what comes. With their car he wanted to grab the opportunity when it seems there might be a chance of a win.

        1. Indeed, I think this is what everyone who liked verstappen, me included, have been saying for a while: you can take all risks you want with a car that can only occasionally win like red bull the last few years or ferrari 2019, while when you have example a ferrari 2018, which is competitive all year, you need to play it safer and bring home the points, and example not crash at hockenheim with 20 sec gap on the 2nd placed driver.

  2. This is the big question. Can Verstappen move from occasional spoiler to season long contender. It will require a different mentality.

    We’ll also get to see if Hamilton has truly grown as a driver or if he’s just enjoyed several years of strong cars and weak competition.

    I suspect they’ll both struggle with the challenge.

    1. Which is what is making this season exciting to watch. I do hope RBR can catch up to Mercedes in race pace as soon as possible so we will have a year long fight.

    2. I think more than the different mentality being a question, @slotopen, the real question is how will the competativeness of the cars develop and to what extent can both teams coung on their other driver to be there when needed.

    3. Michael Samuel Organ
      30th April 2021, 8:03

      Sorry did you miss the last 12 seasons when Hamilton had Alonso and Bell as team mates, Vettel in a faster car and often Verstappen in a faster car, did that go over you head.
      Hamilton has been tested like no other F1 driver since Lauda and Stewart. He is the GOAT, its clear you don’t like that but it is what it is.
      What does Hamilton have to do to ‘prove’ himself to those like you? I know he has to change his skin colour and become German, well its not going to happen so you’ll just have to become less of a racist..

      Reply moderated
  3. The thought of Verstappen potentially winning this year’s championship is so unusual (amidst all that Mercedes) that when I tell myself that it is a genuine possibility.. my entire being just goes fills up with 20 different voices going “yeah right ok” “listen to yourself” “can you even picture it lol its not happening”.
    It just became a thought that you’d laugh off while reading another “takeaways from this year’s testing” and “Toto Wolff says” articles.

    And yet it seems it could actually happen. Wouldnt bet more than a few ice cream cones on it. Especially considering I dont like Verstappen much. Defly a lot less than ice cream.

    But.. I just stopped to appreciate this now and it’s a good thought to have.

    1. I just hope Red Bull fighting for the championship this year won’t impact the development of the 2022 car too much. It took them 6 years to claw back to the top after the 2014 rule change…

      1. Hear hear.
        Hopefully the fact that the core leadership remained unchanged since they were caught out in ‘14 will help their memory, but…
        Won’t be surprised in the slightest :)

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