F1 preview: A lap at the United States Grand Prix
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Lewis Hamilton insists he is not thinking about the points gap between himself and title rival Max Verstappen as the 2021 season heads towards its conclusion. Only 12 points separate the pair with five races to go, though that is a larger gap than it was before Verstappen took victory at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday.
Setting the fastest lap of the afternoon helped the Mercedes man to limit the damage, but Hamilton could not catch his Red Bull rival late in the race and dropped back by six points in the process.
It was Verstappen’s eighth win of the season, with Hamilton unable to challenge the Dutchman on the day despite making up seven seconds to put himself within striking distance on the final lap.
But he was thwarted, with the leader setting the fastest first sector time of the entire race and showing great maturity to keep his challenger at arm’s length and secure the victory.
The 12-point gap between them could grow even more over the next few weeks, with the upcoming races in Mexico and Brazil generally more favourable towards the Red Bull cars.
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The tracks in Mexico City and Sao Paolo are at a higher altitude, which suits their machinery more than it does the Mercedes cars.
Still, the seven-time world champion says he is not thinking about the points gap between himself and the man gunning for his first F1 crown.
“I’m not thinking about [the gap] at the moment,” Hamilton told reporters after the race in Austin. “I’ve got to be happy with the job that I did today and live in the moment.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough to win the race. I’ve just got to look forward and just take it one race at a time.
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“There are two circuits [Mexico and Brazil] that are strong for Red Bull, so we’ll just try and minimise how strong they can be compared to us and see if we can do a better job.”
The Briton added he did not believe he or his team could have done any more to push Verstappen, who was “just too quick” for them on the day.
He said: “I don’t know what we could have done differently. I have to sit down and talk with the team afterwards.
“I think the team did a great job today, and it was best with what we had. We’re going to the next two tracks, which are very strong circuits for Red Bull, so it’s gonna be tough for sure.”
While Verstappen enjoyed a good result in Texas, his team will be even more overjoyed after taking a significant chunk out of Mercedes’ lead in the constructors’ championship.
The Silver Arrows had led by 36 points heading into the US GP, but that gap has now closed to 23 after Sergio Perez came home third to secure 40 points in total for Red Bull, while their rivals could only manage 27 with Valtteri Bottas finishing sixth.
It is the tightest title battle F1 has seen in years, with Hamilton’s dominance under threat for the first time since he was beaten to the championship by team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016.
And it has been even longer since Mercedes were last denied the constructors’ title, as the Silver Arrows usurped Red Bull at the top of the pile in 2014 and have won it every year since.
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