Austin – The advantage is close, it has changed several times. It has already crashed and it is also a passionate and bitter battle for the World Championship of Formula 1 generations.
The defending champion, 36 years old, seven times world champion, superstar: Lewis Hamilton. The 24-year-old challenger, once a rookie at just 17, a hot spur in the early years, uncompromising but still untitled: Max Verstappen. Before the United States Grand Prix, Verstappen is ahead of the classification. Six points separate the Dutch Red Bull driver from the British Mercedes driver.
The season at a glance:
Bahrain Grand Prix: In the Sakhir desert it is clear: it is tight. Hamilton wins in the season opener, his lead: 745 thousandths of a second. Verstappen ranks second. Hamilton 25 points, Verstappen 18.
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Verstappen fights back and wins a chaotic race ahead of Hamilton at Imola. The Briton gets the extra point for the fastest lap in the race and defends the championship lead with one more point. Hamilton 44, Verstappen 43.
Portuguese Grand Prix: Continue in the winning trade game. Hamilton is the first to be scored in the Algarve, and again Verstappen is in second place. The Dutchman is still close in the standings. Hamilton 69, Verstappen 61.
Spanish Grand Prix: For the first time, one of the two World Cup rivals celebrates the second consecutive victory of the season. And the lucky one is Hamilton. Verstappen has to admit defeat again in second place. He grabs the counter for the fastest lap and thus only loses another six points to Hamilton. Hamilton 94, Verstappen 80.
Monaco Grand Prix: Verstappen has been waiting for this for a long time. Victory in the Principality. And it tastes twice as good. Because Hamilton offers the rather messy opening weekend, he only finishes seventh with the fastest lap and loses the championship lead. Verstappen 105, Hamilton 101.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix: What a crazy race. Verstappen leads shortly before the finish, before the left rear tire explodes and crashes. Hamilton risks too much after a safety car phase, swerves and is finally 16 years old. So neither of us gets anything. Verstappen 105, Hamilton 101.
French Grand Prix: Verstappen wins at Le Castellet ahead of Hamilton and increases his lead slightly, also thanks to the fastest lap in the race. Verstappen 131, Hamilton 119.
Styrian Grand Prix: Verstappen is in a good mood. Second consecutive victory. Again the Dutchman wins, again Hamilton has to admit defeat in second place. The fastest lap in the race is for the British. Verstappen 156, Hamilton 138.
Austrian Grand Prix:Verstappen celebrates the winning triplet. With the third success in a row plus the fastest race lap, he also has the biggest advantage in the title fight of the season. 32 points separate the two now, more than there are in a race weekend. Hamilton loses the fourth point. Verstappen 182, Hamilton 150.
Great Britain Grand Prix: Crash. The clash of duelists of the World Cup. Hamilton touches Verstappen in the first corner, the Dutchman is eliminated. The impact on the tire wall is violent, as are the subsequent arguments and accusations. What finally remains are the three points for the first sprint race. However, the Grand Prix was won by Hamilton, who was second in the sprint and accumulated two more points and added a total of 24 points. Verstappen 185, Hamilton 177.
Hungarian Grand Prix: Verstappen loses the championship lead in the Puszta. He was involved in an accident early on and reached the finish line in ninth place. Hamilton finally finishes second in a crazy race. Hamilton 195, Verstappen 187.
Belgian Grand Prix: The first of two home races for Verstappen, who was born in Belgium. But the Grand Prix turns into a rain sham. Verstappen wins, Hamilton is third. Because he only passes one lap, only half the points remain and Hamilton remains at the top of the standings. Hamilton 202.5, Verstappen 199.5.
Dutch Grand Prix: Now it is the turn of the first Verstappen Festival in the Dutch homeland. And how: he wins ahead of Hamilton, who nevertheless secures the point for the fastest lap in the race. It is enough for Verstappen to regain first place in the standings. Verstappen 224.5, Hamilton 221.5
Italian Grand Prix: The duel intensifies, it crashes again. This time Verstappen crashes into Hamilton’s car. The Red Bull lands in the Mercedes, the rear wheel is pressed against Hamilton’s cockpit. They both drop out. Verstappen can look forward to two sprint points. Verstappen 226.5, Hamilton 221.5.
Russian Grand Prix: Hamilton did. 100th career victory and first in four races. Verstappen had to start from the bottom: the engine change. But it’s still a fabulous second. The World Cup leader has to yield again to Verstappen, but remains only two points behind the leader. Hamilton 246.5, Verstappen 244.5.
Turkish Grand Prix: In Istanbul, Mercedes changes the driving of Hamilton’s car against regulations. Now the Briton has to start from behind, he only achieves fifth place, Verstappen is in second place, and again at the top in the championship standings. Verstappen 262.5, Hamilton 256.5.
United States Grand Prix: Even in practice he goes crazy: after a wheel-to-wheel duel throughout the beginning and the end, Verstappen insults the world champion as a “stupid idiot” and shows Hamilton the middle finger. What happens in the race?
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