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The Formula 1 season is ending the traditional summer break. The biggest fight is at the top of the grid between Mercedes Lewis Hamilton and Red Bulls Max Verstappen.
However, the biggest question right now can be so simple: Where exactly is the finish line?
With 11 races in the books, the protagonists cannot yet be sure how many events are left. Formula 1 is hoping for another 12 grands prix to hit the target of 23, but only 10 are currently planned, with some doubts about others – albeit with possible substitute events in readiness.
But the next three weekends in a row will take place in three historic locations: Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Zandvoort in the Netherlands and Monza in Italy. Lewis Hamilton goes eight points ahead of Max Verstappen in this sequence of events. Verstappen has six wins and Hamilton four. « I think we definitely improved our game, » said Hamilton. “I think during this break we also took time to reflect and see where we were and where we are going. I have no doubt that we will take another step forward in our processes and our application. It was really positive to see.
“It’s going to be tight, it’s going to be tough in this second half of the season. The first half was definitely one of the toughest and the second half will be similar, if not more difficult. ”
Hamilton is on the verge of becoming the first driver to achieve 100 victories. He is at 99 after outperforming 91-time winner Michael Schumacher last season. In order to put Hamilton’s overall victory in perspective, Sebastian Vettel is in second place on the active driver list with 53.
Four of Hamilton’s 99 victories were achieved at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit this week, including in 2020.
« It was obviously an incredible privilege, » said Hamilton. “When I decided to leave McLaren and join this team, I really believed that we would have great success at some point, but of course I never could have expected or imagined that we would be so successful as we had it.
“We all had to bring our A-game over and over again, and that’s the exciting thing about this sport. It’s a new challenge every year, technology continues to advance and we have been at the forefront of it. Of course I am very grateful. ”
If Hamilton is to take the 100th victory, and will do so this or next weekend, he could well be mocked, given the presence of the » Orange Army « fan base of Verstappen Verstappen is likely to find partisan support.
However, Red Bull has not won a Spa-Francorchamps victory since 2014, with Verstappen’s fortunes at the venue being mixed. He was on the podium twice but failed to score three times in his five seasons as the front runner.
« The last two weekends were definitely very fast, » said Verstappen from Mercedes. “I think they were generally very strong in Hungary, but we have to see it again here, they will be quick here for sure. Traditionally, this route wasn’t the best for us because of the long straights; I know we’ve definitely closed the top speed gap a bit, we’re still not there, but I think compared to last year our car is a lot better, our top speed is a lot better. How good will it be against them? It’s a little hard to tell. Either way, the weather doesn’t look great all weekend, a little rainy, a little dry, we’ll have to wait and see how we fare. ”For the first time in his career, Verstappen is in the middle of a title fight the second half of the season. Hamilton now has seven titles under his belt and has been on the losing side four more times in similar situations. However, Verstappen sees no benefit from Hamilton’s greater experience.
« The only advantage you can really get is a faster car, » said Verstappen. “There are so many good drivers in this sport, but they have no way of fighting at the top. When you have seven titles, or one or zero, I think if you’ve spent a couple of years in F1 at the end of the day, especially up front, you know you have to finish every race, you know you are trying must and get the most available points every weekend. I think we’re all trying to do our best and drive the best possible race, so I don’t really see the advantage in that. «
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