On Sunday, fate brings Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen together again in Singapore: the protagonists of the epic World Championship duel in 2021 are involved in several scenes together at the floodlit Grand Prix. What is unusual this time, however, is that not only do both have nothing to do with victory, the world champions also make rare mistakes. However, it remains the same: In the end, Verstappen emerges as the winner of the duel.
The Dutchman also messes up the start after Red Bull’s breakdown qualification from an already poor eighth place on the grid: “A really slow start by Max, who was in the wrong mode. As a result, the car almost stopped,” explains Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko and criticizes: “It can happen, but the whole weekend wasn’t really good with Max. So it wasn’t a birthday present.” The Dutchman turned 25 on Friday.
Verstappen noticed this especially when he attacked McLaren driver Lando Norris: when he tried to overtake on the wet inner lane, the Dutchman stopped his bike, smoked he went to the emergency exit and then to the pits to change the tires, which had become necessary. “When braking, the car touched down and that’s it, I just rushed straight through,” says Verstappen about his spectacular braking. “The vibrations were too strong afterwards, so I had to stop.”
“Today really wasn’t the best day,” reports Hamilton, who has to give up his place in the top 3 to Ferrari man Carlos Sainz right from the start, but can stay close to the Spaniard and the podium places until his mistake. “Then unfortunately I threw it all out the window when I misbraked. I apologize to the team for that. But I’ll come back stronger.”
After his own blunder in the infight with Norris, Verstappen comes back stronger and in the final phase he runs into Hamilton again, who in turn hangs Sebastian Vettel in the gearbox. In the three-way battle of the world champions, the Mercedes star then makes the next blunder. When trying to attack Vettel, Hamilton gets on the inside of the wet track and slips far out, so that Verstappen can slip through as the beneficiary.
While Hamilton’s day ended in ninth place, Verstappen even grabbed Vettel on the final lap and finished seventh.
Nevertheless, the Red Bull driver thinks: “It was a frustrating day for us today. Of course, that goes quickly when you start so far back, because if you’re honest, it actually started yesterday. It was just a total unbelievably messy weekend.” Verstappen’s winning streak has also been torn by this after the last five triumphs in a row.