Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

F1’s close title fight “good for the sport”, Verstappen and Hamilton agree

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton say their enthralling season-long battle for the world championship has been a positive for the sport.

After a back-and-forth season where the pair have traded both the lead in the drivers’ championship and paint between their cars, Verstappen leads Hamilton by just eight points heading into the penultimate race in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Hamilton won each of the previous four championships several races before the season ended. This year’s title fight will go down to the final race unless Verstappen significantly out-scores his rival this weekend.

Verstappen says he believes the sporting storyline of him as a younger challenger against a multiple world champion like Hamilton is an exciting one for those who follow Formula 1.

“I think fighting against Lewis in general has been good for the sport,” said Verstappen. “It’s a young guy against the established world champion – a multiple world champion. I think it’s just very exciting.

“For me, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting against someone who is my age or a world champion, you know that both of them are great drivers. Some might have had a bit more luck in general to be in a good car for a longer time, but that doesn’t take away that they’re a great driver. We always try to beat each other, of course, but I think so far it’s been a really cool season.”

Hamilton shares the view of his championship rival and feels that with Formula 1 enjoying increased exposure to new audiences in recent years through the Netflix documentary series ‘Drive to Survive’, the tense battle between the pair has come at the “perfect time” to help entice new fans.

“I think for us, for the sport, naturally, with the growth of what’s happened through Netflix, I think it’s been incredible,” said Hamilton.

“Yes, we’ve got new people coming in and it’s a perfect time for people to come in and and and get into the sport because it’s the one of the most exciting times the sport has had in a long time. So that’s a positive.”

With Mercedes having dominated the V6 turbo era of Formula 1 since 2014, with Hamilton claiming every drivers’ championship bar 2016 and Mercedes winning every constructors’ championship, Verstappen says that beating the Silver Arrows would be an “amazing achievement”.

“If it would work out, of course, as a team, we would be very happy,” said Verstappen. “Winning a world championship as a team and as a driver, I think it is always an amazing achievement.”

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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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...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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15 comments on “F1’s close title fight “good for the sport”, Verstappen and Hamilton agree”

  1. It could be the only thing they agree upon

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      2nd December 2021, 18:34

      @dmeehan Actually, you say that, I doesn’t appear that the relationship between the two drivers is too sour (especially from Hamilton’s perspective). Obviously there’s going to be heat of the moment reactions, and they’re naturally going to disagree, but I feel there have certainly been worse championship rivalries between drivers.

      I was much more surprised this week at reading that Wolff and Horner have found common ground. After months and months of both acting like 5 year olds fighting each other, they’ve actually found they agree that amateur/third party video footage shouldn’t become a frequently used piece of evidence in the stewards’ room.

  2. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    2nd December 2021, 16:57

    It’s been the best season for a long time, but it would have been even better had Verstappen wanted to win fairly, there have just been too many occasions where he’s slung it into a corner knowing that a crash would likely benefit him more.

    He’s certainly got the skill to beat Hamilton fairly, I rate him as an incredible talent. Had he taken the championship in a fair fight I would have applauded him, despite being a Hamilton fan, but this feels too reminiscent of the Schumacher years: an unsporting genius versus the rest of the field. But unlike the Schumacher years, there is more than one driver who can claim to be at least as good as Verstappen, yet does not feel the need to resort to underhand tactics.

    1. @slightlycrusty Same for me, although i’d say that this season has been a bit of an enigma. On one hand we’ve finally had some fascinating gladiatorial battles up and down the grid, and on the other we’ve seen some really dubious and underhand behaviour from drivers, senior team management, and officials which has spoiled it slightly

      I’ve been trying to cut Max some slack – yes, he does drive like he’s on his PlayStation, but he does come across as a likeable, talented guy at times, and he’s still young. I just think he’s buying into this win or bust persona the three toxic nematodes are pushing.

      Personally, I’d like to see Lewis get his eighth title – he’s had a few wobbles, but once again he’s produced some stellar performances. But i wouldn’t be too down if Max wins it – i think it set’s up 2022 nicely, assuming we get similar parity between the cars.

      1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
        2nd December 2021, 18:38

        s@hakey66 Yes, it’s not been just about the top two, but it’s a shame the chasing pack hasn’t been a bit closer. Loved seeing Alonso get back to top form, Norris coming of age, and Sainz taking the fight to Leclerc. If they could sort out the rubbish stewarding it would improve the sport immeasurably, we seem to be in a golden age as far as talent goes, there are so many fantastic drivers to enjoy now.

        1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
          2nd December 2021, 18:39

          That’s @shakey66, my typing is rubbish!

      2. RandomMallard (@)
        2nd December 2021, 18:54

        @shakey66 and @slightlycrusty You sum my feelings up fairly well. I supported Verstappen for most of this season (mostly out of wanting someone different to win tbh), but gradually got more and more annoyed by the dialogue coming out of Red Bull (not that I find Merc any better, I find them both very annoying, as you say Shakey), and Brazil (the incident during the race, not the quali debacle) was kind of the final straw for me, so I’d like to consider myself a bit more neutral now. I don’t really mind who wins, although I dread both outcomes simply because of the inevitable outcry it will cause from either/both sides.

        Max is undoubtably an incredibly quick and talented driver, and some of his driving this season has been incredible (France, both races in Austria, Zandvoort, COTA and Mexico were probably his best moments), but I think his racecraft does still have room to improve. But as you say Shakey, he’s still fairly young, and in his first proper title fight in F1, so one might excuse him slightly (but definitely not entirely) for that. And looking back, it’s clear that Hamilton is a better driver now than he was in 2008, or throughout his McLaren days really. He’s even admitted it himself in a BBC article quite recently (very good read if you’re UK based and have a couple of minutes). At the same time, Hamilton has definitely made some mistakes this season, with Imola, Baku and of the Austria races popping to mind (I’m not even going to mention the S word or the C word from July, I’m fed up of that debate), but other than that, and especially in the last few races, he’s been imperious.

        I honestly don’t really care who wins the constructor’s to be honest because I don’t particularly want either of them to win, they’ve annoyed me so much. I do feel really sorry for the main team employees and mechanics (especially the PR guys, can’t have been an easy ride for them) though – I’m sure most of them are lovely and brilliant at what they do but are managed by people acting like 5 year olds. Both teams remind me very much that 2000s/Schumacher era Ferrari that you mention Jay, both trying to undercut each other and just having a massive war of words that after a while becomes unbearable.

        1. @randommallard I’ve always been a bit of a neutral – I just love true driver skill and technical innovation and was fortunate enough to work with a number of F1 teams during the early noughties – it’s a complex and fascinating industry and a sport that I hate seeing manipulated and dragged into the gutter.
          However, I think @slightlycrusty is spot on when he says we’re in a golden age of driver talent. Exciting times ahead, providing the powers that be don’t sell out and turn it into pro wrestling on wheels in the pursuit of fair-weather fans and shareholder returns.

          1. I’m not so convinced about “driver talent” as it’s a different paradigm these days.

            If in years past a driver had turned up and driven with no regard to track boundaries to “ explore limits” in any practice session (and let’s face it, Qualy and races) like they do now, they’d have been straight off to hospital and their cars needing a rebuild.

            One of the “talents” I used to admire in my earlier days, was the ability of the really skilled drivers to reign in their enthusiasm enough to keep the cars on the black bits. These days you really only see that talent at Monaco and we know what happens to a lot of the great new talent there.

          2. @dbradock, I do think that some of that talent we saw in Hamilton’s Qatar performance leading up to q3 as he clearly kept it within those lines intentionally, and even his Q3 runs were pretty clean in that respect. And I think Verstappen was like that in Austria too wasn’t he, knowing they broken a couple of wings?

            @randommallard that reads as a decent appraisal of the season so far, well said; @shakey66 well said too, thanks.

      3. Just to make sure Max doesn’t drive on his playstation. He has a racing rig for simulation racing (iracing) I think he plays FiFa on his playstation only.

    2. It still is a shame Lewis needed the Silverstone action to return in the game and changed the way they fought each other. Until then there were nice actions by both, mostly won by max.
      Let’s hope Lewis keeps it clean those lady races.

      1. Yes erikje, I too will be extremely disappointed if there is any late turning in, leaping of curbs, weaving on straights, or running several metres off track. I’m sure they’ll both keep it clean given the amount of focus on them.

  3. Well thats a bit of a pickle there then. So by levelling the playfield through in season changes (tyres, wings, pitstops) and bumping competitors off, we create the ultimate showdown and the fans are fine with it? Sounds like the proof Liberty was waiting for.

  4. It will be a real shame for F1 if the WDC is decided with a fastest lap point, the stupid sprint races have already distorted the results.

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