Unsurprisingly, Max Verstappen was therefore elected driver of the day during the French Grand Prix held this Sunday at Le Castellet.
Winner of the event after taking pole position, fastest lap in the race, the 23-year-old Dutchman won after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap, the consequence of his two pit stops, against a single for the Briton's Mercedes.
In the general classification, he consolidates his lead (12 points) over his great rival, victorious in the two previous editions. Beyond this 3rd success in seven races, it is the daring and profitable strategy decided by Verstappen and Red Bull - who realized that they could not make up for their delay - which calls out and shows that the youngest of Hamilton (36) may be becoming the paddock boss, slowly ending the reign of the seven-time world champion.
It is already clear that the 2021 title will be played between these two, as they dominate their discipline.
Second last year, Valtteri Bottas, although also driving for Mercedes, drags his penalty at each Grand Prix and Sergio Perez, in the other Red Bull, has everything from the perfect 3rd.
The duel is therefore launched, and the next fifteen races will tell if the youngster will be the successor of the English legend.
Capture the 🏁 flag ✅ Mission complete!
😎pic.twitter.com / MZXFWY3a9x
- Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) June 20, 2021
Verstappen, who nevertheless denies having the best single-seater - "We are not yet where we would like to be and we still have to work hard to progress because we are a little slower than them," he told the outcome of the Spanish GP - is currently the dominant one. His retirement in Baku two weeks ago, when he was leader, was due to a puncture, while that of Hamilton, who could secure 2nd place, is the result of a big driving error.
The duel between these exceptional champions is also that of two origins.
“Son of”, like Jacques Villeneuve, Nico Rosberg, Damon Hill, and Mick Schumacher (his father, Jos, competed in 107 F1 GP between 1994 and 2003, and his mother was a kart champion), Max Verstappen knew how to drive before to walk.
Coming from a rather modest background, Lewis Hamilton, who shows since his advent a style "bling-bling", had to face the mockery and racism of some of his comrades during his youth.
The duel continues in the media
At the wheel, they both show an unparalleled strength of character, and essential to achieve their goals. With the dose of incomprehension that such power can arouse. Smiling when he wins, the Briton has already been grumpy in defeat. He had thus released murderous sentences when Nico Rosberg, his teammate at the time, had robbed him of the title in 2016. The same year, the Dutchman had been put in his place for his very aggressive conduct in Belgium. In 2018, in Brazil, very angry, he jostled Esteban Ocon, who had hit him while he was leader. Result: two days of community service.
Fortunately, they have calmed down since then.
The question is how long will this last.
Even if he was relaxed after his 2nd place and praised the work of his Team, Hamilton did not have to appreciate the legitimate smile of his rival on the podium.
"Lewis hasn't had constant opposition so far, and he's finding it increasingly difficult to get used to it," Helmut Marko, boss of Team Red Bull, told German channel RTL.
If they meet on a bend then it won't be a matter of tactics, just man to man.
"No one wants to be inferior to the other, especially as the title gets closer," Jos Verstappen bid on Dutch channel Ziggo Sport.
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The first big winner of this opposition is of course Formula 1, which is rediscovering its great duels of yesteryear, such as the one between Prost and Senna. To the delight of their respective supporters, and there is no shortage of them, Hamilton and Verstappen still have fifteen races to conquer the Grail. With, already, a small advantage for the youngest, since the next two will take place in Austria, the stronghold of Red Bull.