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.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.