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 Formula1.com. “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.”
Confident, but expecting another tough fight with Lewis Hamilton in Brazil ⚔️
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 11, 2021
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.”