'I'm still faster': Max Verstappen's bold sledge for F1 champ

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Max Verstappen has escalated his rivalry with Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen has boasted that he would still be two-tenths of a second faster each lap if he was driving Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. Pictures: Getty Images

Neither Max Verstappen nor Lewis Hamilton picked up any points during last weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix - but that hasn't dampened their intense rivalry one bit.

The two leading F1 championship contenders remain practically inseparable after the chaotic Baku street race, which was won by Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

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Verstappen crashed out of the lead after suffering a rear tyre failure at top speed down the main straight, while an error at the subsequent race restart saw Hamilton end up at the back of the pack after overshooting the first corner.

Fans have been relishing a true title fight between F1's top drivers, after Hamilton has dominated the previous four seasons, in part thanks to his Mercedes team's technical superiority.

In 2021 though, Red Bull appears to have lifted their game, running a car that has proven more than a match for the Mercedes over the opening rounds of the season.

Despite the disappointment of his race-ending crash, Verstappen made a somewhat bold boast after the grand prix, following word Hamilton had talked up Red Bull's improvement.

“I would say that (Red Bull’s car is faster) too if I were him,” he said. 

“I think if I’m in his car I’m still two tenths faster than him. I don’t care what he says.”  

Despite his boast, Verstappen predicted Mercedes would be a much more difficult prospect to face on the upcoming European swing of the season, as opposed to their struggles on the Monaco and Baku street circuits in recent weeks.

F1 will return to France in two weeks time, after last year's race at Circuit Paul Ricard was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It seems like we have the upper hand over Mercedes on street circuits,” Verstappen said. 

“That’s exactly why I would have liked to score more points.

“I’m sure on normal circuits it becomes a lot harder to have a race like we had here.

“Our car was very good, but I honestly expect a strong Mercedes on normal circuits.

“I feel bad about this missed opportunity to run out of points.

“We need those points over the whole season, especially when we go back to normal circuits.”

Perez wins in Baku after Verstappen crash

Formula One fans enjoyed an unfamiliar podium as Perez, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly all finished in the top three for the first time this year.

Australian hope Daniel Ricciardo was ninth is his McLaren as his difficult F1 season continued.

Verstappen had no warning his tyre was about to fail as he slammed into the wall. The Dutchman climbed from his car, inspected the tyre and kicked it in anger before stomping off in disgust over the race-changing failure.

"Sometimes you can hate this sport," Verstappen said after the race.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are locked in an intense F1 championship battle, despite neither driver scoring points in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (Photo by Emilio Morenatti - Pool/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are locked in an intense F1 championship battle, despite neither driver scoring points in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (Photo by Emilio Morenatti - Pool/Getty Images)

Red Bull was clearly concerned about the Pirelli tyres after a similar accident ended Lance Stroll's race earlier and under red flag the team asked F1 that the cars be allowed to change tyres before the two-lap sprint to the finish.

F1 had previously announced it would experiment with half-hour sprint races in places of qualifying later this season. Baku was an unexpected preview of an even shorter, more explosive format.

"I was quite happy. It always brings a bit more excitement. It creates some sort of adrenaline inside you," Gasly said of the two-lap sprint that decided the race.

Perez was the leader on the restart but Hamilton shot past him in his attempt to win the race and reclaim the points lead from Verstappen.

With AAP

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