HAMILTON VS VERSTAPPEN: THE STORY SO FAR
The 2021 Formula One season got underway at Bahrain for the first time since 2010. And coming into the season it was built up to be the battle of the century between two generational talents in Hamilton and Verstappen. And it's certainly what we have got. With Hamilton targeting a record breaking eighth World Championship and Verstappen eyeing his first title and to be F1’s first Dutch World Champion.
In the season opener at Bahrain it was evenly matched between the two drivers which gave everyone hope for the season ahead as Hamilton (Mercedes) makes the first punch winning in Bahrain with Verstappen (Red Bull) in second and Bottas (Mercedes) third.
Bahrain also saw the debut of Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri), Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and son of seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher – Mick Schumacher (Haas) and the return of Fernando Alonso at Alpine.
The next round was at Imola a circuit known in the motorsport world as the location for F1’s darkest weekend when in 1994 they lost Roland Ratzenberger in qualifying and the legendary Ayrton Senna in the race.
This time it was Verstappen who got the winning punch taking victory with Hamilton in second and Lando Norris in third for his second F1 podium in the ever-improving McLaren. In a battle which would see the two title contenders make contact on the first lap. And a race in which Hamilton almost didn’t finish – after sliding off the track in slippery and changing conditions.
Onto round three and F1 is in Portugal – and Hamilton makes it two victories yet again with Verstappen close behind in second and Bottas third, we would see the exact same podium in Spain for round four.
Hamilton now has three wins to Verstappen’s one and looks set to control the championship from here on in, but Mercedes’ and Hamilton’s fortunes were about to change going into round five… Monaco the jewel in the crown, the most challenging circuit there is and with Hamilton only managing a seventh placed finish Verstappen took his second victory with Carlos Sainz in second taking his first podium for Ferrari and Norris in third.
Round six was at Baku in Azerbaijan and Verstappen looked set to take a commanding victory until disaster struck and with just laps to go until the end his rear tyre blew out and the Dutchman went skidding into the wall at well over 200mph. This gave Verstappen’s newest teammate Sergio Perez the lead. The race was red flagged with one lap left and the remaining drivers were told to do a standing start from the grid – Perez sits in first Vettel in second and Hamilton in third right behind the sole remaining Red Bull – the five lights come on… one by one… THEY GO GREEN – the grid fly off and Hamilton looks to make a daring move into the first corner but Hamilton accidentally changes a setting on his wheel and carries straight on missing the corner dropping him from third to last in a matter of seconds. Perez wins his first race for Red Bull with Vettel in second for Aston Martin and Gasly in third for Alpha Tauri.
Verstappen would go on to win the next three races in France and Austria. By this point, Verstappen has a clear lead in the title fight.
Hamilton would make it four wins at Silverstone after making first lap contact with Verstappen sending him into the tyre wall with a speed of 51G.
Hamilton now has four wins to Verstappen’s five, the only other driver to win a race apart from the two protagonists was Perez. That was until round 11 in Hungary a track which in the past has been called Monaco without the barriers. A race which started out wet and dried out quickly – when the session was red flagged for poor weather everyone pit and put on a set of dry tyres except Hamilton who was sat on the grid ready for the restart all by himself on a set on intermediate tyres – so he set off when the lights went out and clearly very slow and bad mistake made by the Mercedes strategists costing Hamilton the win but only just as he was able to fight his way into third which would become second after Vettel was disqualified for mismanagement in regards to fuel. The winner of that race was Alpine’s Esteban Ocon who became the 111th different winner in F1 – Verstappen would not finish that race after a game of bowling was played going into the first corner on the first lap.
Most recently was the Belgian Grand Prix at the famous Spa Francorchamps Circuit which in 2019 claimed the life of F2 driver Anthoine Hubert. There was great excitement for this race after George Russell qualified second in a Williams car that should be nowhere near the front of the grid. But with conditions so bad the drivers couldn’t see the car in front the race after around three hours of delays the race was eventually abandoned and drivers were awarded half points for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix of 2009. With the race called off it meant Verstappen was given the victory with Russell taking his first podium in F1 and Hamilton in third.
Hamilton leads the championship by just five points to Verstappen and anything really could happen in the remaining races.
The next race is the Dutch Grand Prix.