Verstappen edged title rival Lewis Hamilton at the United States Grand Prix last Monday (AEDT) to extend his lead in the world championship to 12 points.
But Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko has claimed that Verstappen would be leading the Mercedes ace by more than 50 points if luck had gone his way in three dramatic races.
Verstappen appeared to be cruising to victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June when his left-rear tyre exploded with just five laps remaining, ending his race in that moment. Hamilton wouldn’t receive any points, either, after his brakes locked up following a restart, resulting in a 15th-placed finish.
Verstappen was then involved in a ferociously debated incident with Hamilton at Copse Corner on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix in July, when the seven-time world champion attempted an ambitious overtake on his inside. The front of Hamilton’s Mercedes clipped the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull, sending the 23-year-old flying across the gravel. Verstappen’s day was done and, despite being dealt a 10-second penalty, Hamilton won the race and bagged 27 points.
Tyre failure puts Verstappen out of Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Marko also pointed out an ugly incident involving Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix in August, in which the Dutchman was one of five drivers eliminated from the race after Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes triggered chaos at the first turn. Hamilton grabbed 18 points for a second-placed finish.
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The three costly incidents have led Marko to airing his frustrations ahead of the final five races of the season, beginning with the Mexican Grand Prix next weekend.
Verstappen survives big crash at British GP
“Before the last three races, we actually feared that we would be significantly behind,” Marko told the Autosport website.
“The bottom line is that we scored more points than Hamilton in those grands prix, mainly because of Hamilton’s race in Turkey where he was only fifth, while Max finished second in Sochi – certainly by luck, as well, because of the rain.
“But even more remarkable is we innocently lost Baku, lost Silverstone and lost Hungary. If you calculate the amount of points we lost carefully, then it’s over 50 points in those three races.
“As a result we are only 12 points ahead now. So, we have survived all those setbacks. And we have also been able to match the upswing from Mercedes.”
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Formula 1 commentary icon Martin Brundle wrote in a Sky Sports column this week that the next two races, to be staged in Mexico and Brazil, would favour Red Bull.
Brundle said the Honda unit turbo architecture would be better suited to the high altitude than Mercedes’ technology.
Marko holds the same view.
“Looking at the remaining races, I think we have to win at least two more races to be reasonably safe or, let’s say, confident going into the final race,” Marko said.
“The high-altitude tracks of Brazil and Mexico should suit us significantly better.
“It’s just that so much has already happened this season.
“So-called Mercedes tracks weren’t Mercedes tracks in the end, and the same goes for Red Bull tracks.”
Hamilton (2016, 2019) and Verstappen (2017, 2018) have two Mexican Grand Prix wins apiece.
After 17 rounds of the world championship, Verstappen is leading on 287.5 points and Hamilton is sitting second on 275.5.
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