Russell would make life very difficult for Hamilton at Mercedes - Verstappen

By Sports Desk September 02, 2021

Max Verstappen believes George Russell will make life "very difficult" for Lewis Hamilton if he replaces Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next year.

Williams driver Russell has been tipped to take Bottas' seat, with Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff having revealed his desire to finalise his driver line-up for 2022 this month.

Russell stepped in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year after the seven-time Formula One world champion tested positive for coronavirus.

The 23-year-old also conducted a Pirelli tyre test for Mercedes ahead of the mid-season break and Verstappen thinks his arrival would keep his fellow Brit Hamilton on his toes.

"If he joins then for sure he will make it very difficult for Lewis,” Verstappen, who trails Hamilton by three points in the battle for the title, said ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix this weekend.

"He jumped into the car in Bahrain and basically from lap one he was making it very difficult for Valtteri, so you can only imagine the more experience you gain in that car and the more you get accustomed within the team, naturally you're going to get faster.

"When you do your first race you're guided by the team about setup direction because you just don’t know what to do really, initially, with the car.

"I remember my first race at Red Bull, the thing I said was is that we will just follow a bit what Daniel [Ricciardo] is doing because I have no clue about what this car needs to go quick because even though F1 cars look pretty similar, the way of setting them up can be very different.

"I am very confident - already what you could see with the performance he did in Spa was really good.

"Of course, they set up the car a bit more for wet conditions but nevertheless to do that in a Williams was very impressive. I do expect him to do very well if he gets that seat."

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc echoed Verstappen's sentiments.

“I have actually been team-mates with George for a year in karting and I think what I have seen of him since that time, is just that he is extremely talented," he said.

"Every time he gets into the car he's just quick straightaway, so his talent makes him special.

"If he goes to Mercedes next year, and I hope he does because I think he deserves a chance there, I'm pretty sure he will perform very, very well and impress more than one person."

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  • 'The last few laps were fun', says Verstappen after edging out Hamilton in Austin 'The last few laps were fun', says Verstappen after edging out Hamilton in Austin

    Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen enjoyed his head-to-head battle with Lewis Hamilton at the United States Grand Prix.

    Verstappen came out on top in an enthralling race, pipping his title rival by 1.333 seconds in Austin.

    It marked Verstappen's first race win in the United States, with Red Bull's decision to pit early in Sunday's race paying off.

    Mercedes told Hamilton it was "all about the final three laps" and, though the reigning world champion came close, he just did not have enough to overcome Verstappen, who takes a 12-point lead into the final five races.

    Verstappen has now won eight races in 2021. Only in 2016, when Hamilton lost out to Nico Rosberg despite winning 10 grands prix, has a driver who has collected at least eight victories failed to win the championship.

    Red Bull did not have it all their own way, with Hamilton coming from second on the grid to nip ahead of Verstappen with a brilliant start, but the Dutchman regained the lead and held his nerve.

    "We lost some time at the start, so we had to try and do something else," Verstappen said. "The tyre wear is quite high around this track, so we had to go aggressive but I wasn't sure if it was going to work.

    "The last few laps were fun. A bit sideways through the high-speed corners, but super happy to hang on."

    Hamilton was left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late during the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago, but on this occasion, the Briton – who has won a record six times in the United States – had no such complaints.

    "Congratulations to Max, he did such a good job today," Hamilton said. "It was such a tough race, had a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day [Red Bull] just had the upper hand this weekend.

    "I couldn't have asked for more, a big thank you to my team for great pit stops, great work throughout the weekend."

    Both Verstappen and Hamilton also hailed the 140,000-strong crowd at the Circuit of the Americas, with F1 returning to Austin for the first time since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    "What an amazing crowd, to perform in front of you guys is such an honour," Hamilton added. "I think this is definitely our acceptance into the US.

    "What a place to be, I hope we have more races out here, hope the sport continues to grow because you can see how great the fans are."

    Verstappen echoed the sentiment, saying: "[The fans] have been incredible. It's amazing to be here and to see so many of you around the track."

    Red Bull had a great day all-round, with Sergio Perez coming in third to seal the team's 200th F1 podium.

    Perez's efforts were made even more outstanding by the fact the water system in the Mexican's car had a malfunction, leaving him unable to take on any fluid in scorching track conditions in Texas.

    "Struggled massively. You know, since lap one, I ran out of water. I couldn't drink at all," he said.

    "I think by the middle of my second stint it was starting to get pretty difficult, you know, losing strength. I think my toughest race ever, physically."

  • Verstappen holds his nerve in Austin to take 12-point championship lead Verstappen holds his nerve in Austin to take 12-point championship lead

    Max Verstappen kept his cool in the Texas heat to hold off Lewis Hamilton and clinch a vital victory in the Formula One title race at the United States Grand Prix.

    Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at this race on Saturday and despite Hamilton – who had previously won three times from second on the grid in Austin – enjoying a fantastic start, the Red Bull driver got back ahead and held his nerve in a tense final tussle to clinch his maiden success in America by 1.3 seconds.

    Having been told by his Mercedes team that it was "all about the last three laps", Hamilton trailed by just 3.046 seconds heading into the final 10 at the Circuit of the Americas, which did not host a race last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The reigning world champion, who has won more races (six) in the United States than any other driver, cut the gap with five laps remaining, with that promise of a frantic final three laps proving correct.

    In fact, it came down to the final lap, Verstappen utilising DRS early to get an extra boost that just kept him ahead of Hamilton, as Red Bull's decision to pit the championship leader early paid off in style.

    It brought up an eighth race win of the season for Verstappen, and a drive described by his team as "sheer class" propelled the Dutchman 12 points clear. 

    Red Bull had a great day all-round, with Sergio Perez coming in third to seal the team's 200th F1 podium, though Hamilton did take an extra point for the fastest lap.

    Charles Leclerc took fourth place for Ferrari, while Valtteri Bottas overcame Carlos Sainz late on to grab sixth place behind Daniel Ricciardo – the latter pair having clipped on lap 43.

    Verstappen matches Mansell

    Verstappen has now equalled Nigel Mansell as the driver to have recorded the second most victories with a Honda engine, on 13, behind only the late Ayrton Senna (32). 

    With eight wins to his name in 2021, victory is on Verstappen's side. Apart from Hamilton in 2016, who won 10 without claiming the title, all drivers who have won at least eight races in a season went on to seal the championship.

    Alonso's unhappy Austin hunting ground

    Only in Belgium (16, three podiums) has Fernando Alonso raced on more occasions without a win than in the United States (13, two podiums). 

    There was no change in that record on Sunday as the Alpine driver was forced to retire due to a broken rear wing.

    IN THE POINTS

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1:333
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +42:223
    4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +52:246
    5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:16:854
    6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:20:128
    7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:23:545
    8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:24:395
    9. Yuki Tsuonda (AlphaTauri) +1 LAP
    10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1 LAP

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 287.5
    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 275.5
    3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 185
    4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 150
    5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 149

    Constructors

    1. Mercedes 460.5
    2. Red Bull 437.5
    3. McLaren 254
    4. Ferrari 250.5
    5. Alpine 104

    WHAT'S NEXT?

    Mexico is next up to start a triple-header that also includes trips to Brazil and Qatar in November. Only five grands prix remain in what is shaping up to be a sensational title race.

  • Quartararo 'living the dream' after winning maiden MotoGP title Quartararo 'living the dream' after winning maiden MotoGP title

    Fabio Quartararo is "living the dream" after becoming the first Frenchman to win the MotoGP title following an eventful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    The 22-year-old, who is competing in just his third season, was crowned 2021 world champion after closest challenger Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of Sunday's race.

    Bagnaia started from pole and was leading with five laps to go, only to come off his bike and effectively end his chances of catching Quartararo in the drivers' standings with two grands prix remaining.

    Yamaha rider Quartararo still had to see out the race to pick up the three points needed to seal top spot and did that with a fourth-placed finish in Italy.

    Quartararo's triumph, which ends Yamaha's six-year wait for a title, was achieved the hard way as he started the race in 15th after his worst ever qualifying session on Saturday.

    He gradually made his way through the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth when Bagnaia crashed.

    The Frenchman said on the eve of the race he expected the title battle to continue into the Grande Premio do Algarve next month and he felt the pressure at the start line.

    "It was tough for me because I made a really bad start and I never experienced a MotoGP start at that far back," he said. 

    "I think our front tyre pressure goes so much up [in a pack]. When I braked, I had a lot of moments almost crashing, so to be close to the podium was amazing.

    "It was a new experience, and also with the pressure of the championship I was feeling really bad this morning.

    "Let's say I had pain in the belly, it is the first time that I found it difficult to eat before the race, so it was a big day and we managed to be world champion.

    "After this I think the weight of trying to be world champion, from now, will totally lose the pressure and I can enjoy the two last races."

    Bagnaia had just stretched away from eventual race winner Marc Marquez when he crashed and cut a desolate figure at the end of the race.

    The Italian, who was one of the first to congratulate Quartararo, denied losing focus with the winning line in sight and also backed the call to use hard front tyres.

    That was a decision that also cost Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who crashed early on at the same corner as Bagnaia.

    "Medium for me was worse than soft; soft was already on the limit yesterday and this morning, so the hard was the correct choice," Bagnaia said.

    "The only thing is with the hard you just need to push every single lap like hell, to let the tyre be hot.

    "As for the crash, that was not because I lost concentration. I was pushing – it was winning or gravel, and I tried all to achieve this win.

    "I'm happy about my performance. Of course I'm a bit frustrated about the result because I think we were deserving of more.

    "But we just try to be always more competitive, and for next year we are for sure in a good way."

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