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Formula 1 2021

Just how good is the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton?

The United States Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton go head-to-head in another race-long battle. RacingNews365.com takes a look at why their rivalry has been so intense this year.

Hamilton Verstappen USA
Column
To news overview © Mercedes

This year’s title race simply keeps on delivering. The United States Grand Prix saw a pure head-to-head fight between Formula 1's top two drivers in Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

There was so much energy in Austin and a wonderful atmosphere to set the scene perfectly for an intense duel at the Circuit of the Americas.

Qualifying saw Verstappen deliver when the pressure was really on, having trailed his teammate Sergio Perez after the first run in Q3, whilst Hamilton then took pole position for a matter of seconds.

Two events stand out in 2021 where Verstappen has been on his A-game when he needed to. The French GP, when a bold two-stop strategy saw him catch and overtake Hamilton with less than two laps to go, and his home race at Zandvoort when he absorbed the pressure of 70,000 Dutch fans to convert pole into victory.

Austin provided yet more evidence that Verstappen can perform when it matters most. Some drivers can crack when they are involved in a title fight, but Verstappen has shown no signs of any nerves so far.

Hamilton must be praised, too, as he was just as impressive in Austin and had he been against any other driver, he likely would have come out on top to take a tremendous win.

Apart from a very short Virtual Safety Car period, Verstappen and Hamilton were going at it for 56 laps. They left nothing on the table, maximising every ounce of performance from their tyres and cars.

It needed something special to win on Sunday and both drivers gave it everything.

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

It's all about the details

Verstappen brought up the importance of "details" following the race and he's spot on. That's what this year's title is coming down to.

"We are all confident within the team that we can do a really good job," Verstappen told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.

"But we need to nail the details and we have to start over again in Mexico, to try to get the best out of our whole package."

Mercedes were utterly dominant in the opening practice session in Austin, leaving Red Bull scratching their heads.

It took a mammoth effort and everything needed to be optimised in order for Red Bull to get on terms with Mercedes by the time qualifying arrived.

The smallest of wing angle changes, adjustments to ride height, tyre pressures – all of these tiny aspects to set up a car add up and are making a difference.

Then, it comes down to the drivers. In qualifying, you want to nail the out laps and get the perfect gap to the car in front to gain a small slipstream down the straights, without compromising yourself in the corners.

Most of the qualifying sessions this season have been incredibly exciting because it's ultimately come down to the driver and who can deliver when the pressure is on.

			© Mercedes
	© Mercedes

Coping with the pressure

The intensity only ramps up on race day and this is where Verstappen and Hamilton have often been in a league of their own.

Both have had some excellent starts and they are the benchmark when it comes to tyre management. Pirelli's tyres are so fickle in modern F1 and, even though Verstappen and Hamilton trade punches over the 300km race distance, they find a way to get the most out of the tyres.

People love to remember races such as Suzuka 2000 (Michael Schumacher versus Mika Hakkinen), when the sport's top two drivers are on top of their game in equal machinery, and there have been so many races like that this season.

Bahrain, Spain, France, the Netherlands and the most recent race in Austin have been thrillers in terms of strategy and the intensity of the fight between Hamilton and Verstappen.

We've been spoilt and we may not see a season like it again for a while. Races are being decided by quick or slow pit-stops, an unseen lock-up, a wide moment or misfortune with traffic.

It doesn't get much better than this and the intensity will only increase over the final five races.

With two of the greatest racing drivers of this century going head-to-head every weekend, F1 in 2021 will be seen as a classic.

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Were Mercedes caught out by Red Bull's aggressive strategy call in Austin?

It's time for the latest episode of the RacingNews365 podcast, with F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discussing the tense strategy battle between Mercedes and Red Bull and much, much more from the United States Grand Prix.

F1 2021 US Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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