Max Verstappen braces for a fight to the end, not looking beyond Brazil

Verstappen Brazil
Mark Thompson / Getty Images

With a ninth victory to his credit after winning the last two races at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Max Verstappen has what many would consider a comfortable lead, 19 points ahead of last year’s champion Lewis Hamilton, as Formula One heads to Brazil.

But don’t expect him to take the 2021 drivers’ title for granted in the last four races of the season, especially this coming weekend in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Anything can happen – and he has already lost a sizeable lead once already.

Midway through the season, Verstappen won three consecutive races in France and Austria to assume a commanding lead of 32 points. Then came Silverstone and his lead was gone in the blink of an eye. Contact between his car and eventual winner Hamilton at the start of the British GP sent Verstappen home as the first retiree. He earned just three points for that race and allowed Hamilton to close to within eight.

The following week, Hamilton was second in the Hungarian GP with Verstappen ninth.

Hamilton now had the eight-point lead – and the championship remained close until the last two weeks when Verstappen began to surge once more.

“I’m just really focused; in four races a lot of things can happen,” Verstappen said at “We are looking good, but things can change very quickly. I said after the race in Mexico, I’ve had a bigger lead already in the championship but that disappeared within two races weekends, so we have to again try to do the best we can here and again after this weekend we will try to win the race.”

There is no doubt that Verstappen controls his own fate.

Back-to-back wins in the last two races marks the fourth time he’s won consecutively in 2021. Verstappen is favored again at PointsBet Sportsbook at -165 to Hamilton’s +225.

“(Brazil has) been quite good to us in the past, so I’m looking forward to being here again,” Verstappen said. “Of course, a lot has changed from 2019, but I do think we can do a good job.

“There are not many corners around here but, of course, with the altitude still being a bit high, that is normally good for us. If you look back at ’19 it was quite a tough battle with Lewis anyway, so I expect the same again.”

Verstappen won that battle in 2019 after taking the lead from Hamilton with 12 laps remaining in the race. Verstappen was on his way to Victory Lane in 2018 before contact with Esteban Ocon, who he was lapping at the time, opened the door for Hamilton.

Hamilton claimed the victory there in 2018 and 2016.

“How many times do you have this opportunity,” Verstappen asked? “You don’t know. Maybe from next year you don’t get that opportunity again. So, I’m just really enjoying the moment.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.