• Chris Kato

US GP Win Further Proves Verstappen is on Hamilton's Level of Driving Ability

An intense finish to a thrilling United States GP shows us Max Verstappen is the real deal...

Courtesy - RACEFANS.net

Austin, Texas - Max Verstappen took his eighth victory of 2021 after narrowly holding off Lewis Hamilton in the heat of the Texas sun at the US Grand Prix. After losing the lead at the start, Verstappen and Red Bull chose to go aggressive by undercutting Mercedes twice in order to gain track position. It was a risky strategy with Hamilton going 8 laps longer on his second stint which meant he'd have fresher rubber in the last 20 laps of the race. But the gamble paid off in the end as Verstappen put in one of the drives of his life to win and extend his championship lead to 12 points. At a circuit in which Mercedes has dominated, Verstappen's US Grand Prix weekend could not have gone any better and the championship showdown in the Wild West was a perfect display of what Formula 1 is all about. But a race like this that is determined by such small margins shows us just how special these two drivers are and how Verstappen is on the same level of one of F1's greats.

How Verstappen Pulled Off An Aggressive Strategy

Courtesy - Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen beat Hamilton to victory by just 1.33 seconds in Austin which some are calling his best victory of his career. Whether or not it was his best, it certainly was his most stressful and complicated with the way the strategy panned out. After giving up the lead on lap one thanks to Hamilton's lighting start, Red Bull triggered the early undercut on lap 11 despite Verstappen's strong pace on the medium tyre. They elected to go aggressive and gain track position which they did in the first and second round of pitstops. Verstappen's race was complicated when Red Bull pitted him very early on the second stint on lap 29 while over at Mercedes, Hamilton stayed out for 8 laps longer meaning he'd have fresher rubber to attack the Dutchman at the end of the race. With Hamilton's blistering pace on the new hard's, almost everyone watching thought that Verstappen was a sitting duck. After looking at Max's first set of hard's and seeing that they were very worn, even Christian Horner felt that he wasn't going to pull it off. "Lewis, with eight lap newer tyres, and the first set of hard's that came off, we were pretty much down to the canvas. And then thinking, well, we’re not going to have much left at the end here.“ I really didn’t think he was going to pull that off.” Red Bull took the upper hand however as they believed in the fact that catching is one thing but passing is another. Even though Hamilton was catching at a rate of one second per lap, Verstappen prioritized his rear tyre management to get good exits out of the slow speed corners and eventually keep Hamilton out of his DRS range. The worn hards on the RB16B made the high speed corners sketchy for Verstappen as he was struggling for grip and the BackMarkers in the final ten laps certainly didn't make it any easier for both Max and Lewis. In the end, Verstappen's race craft made the difference as he held off Hamilton to take his 18th career victory and Red Bull's 200th career podium.

Verstappen At The Level of Hamilton's Driving Ability

Courtesy - Red Bull Content Pool

It's races like these that really separate the good drivers from the exceptional and that's exactly what Hamilton and Verstappen are, exceptional racing drivers. The next closest car to them was some 42 seconds behind the two. Now granted Sergio Perez did not have the drink and wasn't feeling 100% but regardless, the pace at the front was on another level. But besides giving us great drama and entertainment, the 2021 US Grand Prix really showed us that Verstappen is on the same level of F1 greats such as Hamilton in terms of racing abilities. Verstappen was able to handle the enormous pressure of a 7 time World Champion hunting him down on a strategy in which has put him in a losing position before, and yet he still won. It could possibly be a defining drive for Verstappen in this championship but not many drivers could've held off Hamilton like he was able too. The superb tyre management from Max is something we regularly see from Hamilton and it was this factor that Mercedes couldn't find an answer for. It wasn't that Hamilton and Mercedes had a bad race either, quite the contrary. Hamilton drove brilliantly without any mistakes and gained the early advantage on lap one. At the end of the day, they just didn't have an answer for Verstappen's pace and race craft. “I don’t know what we could have done differently,” Hamilton said post-race. “I’ll sit down and talk with the team afterwards. I think the team did a great job today, and it was what we had.."

For year's we've known of the talent that Max Verstappen posses but their was always that question of how he would stack up against the very best? Whether you like him or not, it's clear now that he's a special talent who's driving abilities is on the same level as a Lewis Hamilton for example. His weekend in Texas showcased the full package of one lap pace, excellent race craft, and the abilitiy to excel under immense pressure. No matter which driver you support, you have to admit that Verstappen and Hamilton are a cut above the rest and their battle at the Circuit of the Americas proved the greatness of both drivers. Momentum might be on Red Bull's side as we head to some high altitude tracks but this championship is far from over. There are still 133 points on offer with one more sprint weekend to go so the tide could turn very quickly either way. It's going to be a thrilling finish to what has been a very special 2021 championship. It's races like the US GP that reminds us why we love F1 racing. Two drivers at the peak of their abilities in two cars at the peak of their engineering and one lucky fanbase that gets to sit back and enjoy it all!

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