The confrontation between the two title contenders before the final act: Lewis makes little mistakes when he counts and is fantastic in race management, Max master of braking and now mature in racing
The weekend begins that promises to remain in the memory of Formula 1 for ever and ever. And since the Americans (from Liberty Media) know how to warm the environment, we start with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton side by side at 14.30 today, in a press conference, as boxers on the eve of the world championship. One does not know face to face, because according to what has been seen on the podium in Jeddah, one would say that the two do not like looking each other in the eye. Yes, many words, especially messages on the radio: complaints, recriminations, whining, not always delicate epithets and even more serious gestures, but the desire to clarify, beyond the superficial compliments, no. Never. As is normal in a clash that in addition to being epochal has the traits of an epic duel, in the sense of the paradigm of many human events and traits.
Character, two eras in front
It’s a generational clash and the two embody it perfectly. The young Max is bloody, irreverent to the limits of arrogance. This year’s sentence that represents him is: “If I asked for advice from ‘my father-in-law’ Piquet? No, I don’t need it ”. The expert Lewis is more reflective, subtle, a true master in releasing the pressure on the various rivals on duty. He will detach the symbolic phrase this afternoon, rest assured. But beyond the personal aspect and the rhetoric of the new arrival prince who wants to overthrow the elderly sovereign and his era, the clash between human types is pure epic. Between social commitment and political correctness of Hamilton and the disengagement, combined with Verstappen’s taste for inconvenient, sometimes provocative truth. It goes far beyond motoring. And there is something for all tastes.
Experience: Max as a veteran
There should be no match: and instead Max, 24 years old in the seventh season in F1, has shown that he no longer has much to learn. Impressive to hear him suggest on the radio at his wall how to manage the stops of his companion Perez in favor of his duel. Only one unknown: Lewis is the fourth time the title has been played in the last race, for Verstappen it is the first and already on Saturday in Jeddah a crack was seen. If it weren’t for that mistake in qualifying, Max’s season would have been almost perfect, unlike Lewis’s much more foul one who made serious mistakes in Imola and Baku. But it is true that the champion usually, in the second round, from Spa onwards, is not wrong.
Aggression: unscrupulous and confident, Verstappen dares more
By nature and age Verstappen dares more. And not only for that: a true master of braking, his risks are often calculated and lead to the desired result. In addition, now Max, with 9 wins against 8, is the master of zero to zero: in the event of both of them leaving the scene, he will be champion. Already in Interlagos and Jeddah to say that he did not hold back when it came to dueling with Lewis could be an understatement. Let alone Sunday. So much has the justification ready too: the other one started at Silverstone. And it is true, although he has returned the consideration to him in Monza.
Qualification, Lewis has the magic on the lap
On paper this year we are 7-5 for Verstappen. Counting the qualifications for the sprint races it goes even: 7-7. A little for the help of his W12’s engine, a lot for his sensitivity, Lewis still has something more. When it counts – and perhaps qualifying has never been as important as it will be the day after tomorrow in Abu Dhabi – often some magic pulls it out.
Departure, what numbers the Dutchman at the start
This year we saw the numbers at the traffic lights by Max who made a single, real mistake: at turn 2 at Castellet. On the other hand, his excellent shots were many: at Imola, Montmelò and Silverstone he shot first from behind his rival. At the start of the qualifying in Monza he even mocked him by flying away from the second row, with Lewis left behind. And then again the masterpiece at the second restart last Sunday in Arabia, in which he again caught Hamilton, committed to marking the Alpine of the surprising Esteban Ocon. Verstappen’s skill, coolness and courage in slipping into the hole left unguarded inside turn 1 are in the highlights of the season and will remain in the memory of many for a long time.
Race management, a fight between titans
Lewis is a master, Max has never shown more maturity than this year. Having abandoned the excessive impetuousness of the early years, he has learned to optimize situations: waiting and calculations are not his strong point, you can see that at times he has to control himself, but in the race he really did practically nothing wrong. Even just last Sunday in the slightly more driven first sector of Gedda he often recovered the gap that Hamilton punctually trimmed him in the fastest part of the track. Both are excellent on tire management (Verstappen super in Austin). In Abu Dhabi it will be necessary to pay attention, because Pirelli has chosen the softer triptych (C3, C4, C5), this year only seen in Monaco (Max win) and Sochi (Lewis win).
Pressure, they are both in front of the story
Both of them have a milestone ahead of them that would be a milestone not only in their careers, but in the entire history of F1. For Hamilton the title number eight, to detach Michael Schumacher, and remain alone in the empyrean. For Verstappen the first in his career. The fact that he is already there, in the Olympus of pilots, should take Lewis away a bit of hassle. Which will lighten further by thinking about how far the world championship must have seemed to him at a certain point in the season: after Zeltweg-2 it was at -32, just three GPs ago, after Mexico, it was at -19. If he is even now, it is because his Mercedes engine has grown, but also because he has been perfect. For all these reasons, net of the three retirements, for two of which he is innocent (Baku and Silverstone, in addition to the near withdrawal in Budapest), Max knows he has an extraordinary opportunity and does not want to regret it. For how good he has been so far, and for another reason, projected into the future: Dad Jos designed him to win. And no one has any doubts that he will do it often, least of all him. His ambition is to be the greatest ever. To be successful, however, he needs to start winning now, and to prevent Hamilton from doing so. Because then going to match him at eight, and maybe even beating him, will be even more difficult
December 9 – 08:49
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED