Excited by the duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen this season, Mika Häkkinen believes that the seven-time World Champion now has the advantage, even if the Red Bull driver is still leader of the championship and even has a first theoretical opportunity to be crowned at the next Grand Prix in Jeddah. In the eyes of the Finn, Mercedes’ efforts with its 2021 single-seater are paying off at the best possible time.
« If Formula 1 were a tennis match, I would say ‘Advantage Hamilton’ after dominating victories in Brazil and Qatar », advances the double World Champion in his column for Unibet. “Even though Max Verstappen leads the World Championship with an eight point lead, Mercedes responded by giving Lewis Hamilton a car he can really fight with to defend his title. On Sunday Lewis was totally in control after his big performance. in qualifying. His Mercedes didn’t have the same top speed advantage as in Brazil, where it had a new engine, but in the corners of Qatar it had a clear advantage over Red Bull. «
« After the events in Brazil, it was Max’s turn to take a penalty in Qatar, after not slowing down under a double yellow flag. This is one of the most important safety rules in Formula 1, which requires drivers to slow down and be ready to stop. As Lewis did in Brazil, Max quickly got back into the race, dropping fourth in the first lap. The world title contenders were on another level and competition far behind. «
We are witnessing a sports war between Mercedes and Red Bull.
Mika Häkkinen does not hesitate to talk about « sports war » between the different actors, in a particularly tense context. He also aspires to a spectacular ending in the very last round of the season, in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen and Hamilton at the finish of the Grand Prix of Qatar.
« In my opinion, we are witnessing a sports war between Mercedes and Red Bull », he assures. “It’s a fight between Lewis and Max, between bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, and between the 2,000 people who work for them. We’ve seen some tense times before and I know we’ll see more. […] If Lewis wins again in Saudi Arabia and sets the fastest lap in the race, and Max finishes second – a strong possibility – the two drivers will enter the final round of the championship on a level playing field. It would be an extraordinary end to an incredibly close season. «
While extra-sporting controversies have punctuated the last two meetings, at Interlagos then Losail, the former driver also underlines the « incredibly difficult job to do » of the FIA to referee the duel. « They made tough decisions in Brazil and they had to do the same in Qatar », he specifies. « It shows that officials are trying to take a balanced approach, to let the riders race but also to remind everyone that the rules must be followed. Otherwise, it’s chaos. »
Blown away by Alonso
Fernando Alonso on the podium at Losail.
In addition to the fight at the top, Mika Häkkinen enjoyed Fernando Alonso’s comeback on the podium at the Qatar Grand Prix, the Finn praising the Spaniard’s longevity and his uncompromising determination.
« He started racing in Formula 1 18 months after I retired, and his first podium was over 18 years ago! » he remarks. “Kudos to him for maintaining the focus, fitness and passion to race at this level for so long. Once again Fernando showed his great skill early in the race, enjoying a good grid position. after the penalties inflicted on Max and Valtteri Bottas. I find that his maneuver from the outside on Pierre Gasly in the first round shows all the years of experience and the confidence that goes with it. It was like the good old days to see Hamilton -Alonso at the top of the leaderboard. «