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Silverstone marked a low point on Max Verstappen’s road to 2021’s Formula One title but the Red Bull driver is riding higher than ever ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
The championship leader is 46 points clear of Mexican teammate Sergio Perez after six wins from nine races, with Red Bull now chasing a seventh success in a row — something they last managed in 2013.
A year ago, Verstappen was 33 points clear of Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton after winning the sport’s first Saturday Sprint race for pole position at Silverstone.
The pair then collided at speed on Sunday’s opening lap, with Hamilton going on to win for a record eighth time at home while a bruised Verstappen went to hospital with his lead slashed to eight points.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner accused Hamilton of putting his driver’s life at risk while Verstappen slammed the Briton’s podium celebrations as unsporting and disrespectful.
“We went from winning the sprint race on the Saturday and having a very healthy lead in the world championship to having a driver in hospital on Sunday evening and 26 points immediately wiped out,” Horner recalled.
“It will be great to race in front of probably the biggest ever crowd that Silverstone has had, and hopefully we can be competitive there and try and get some form of redemption for last year.”
Baku, Silverstone and Monza were the circuits last year where Verstappen crashed in races he could have won, and he has already settled the score in Azerbaijan, where Red Bull roared to a one-two finish earlier in June after Ferrari’s challenge imploded.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with a fresh power unit installed at the previous race in Canada, and Carlos Sainz are likely to be his main rivals on Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to Silverstone now,” said Leclerc, 49 points behind Verstappen, after racing from 19th to fifth in Montreal.
“It’s one of my favourite circuits on the calendar and hopefully we can score some big points there,” added the Monegasque, who was second in 2021.
Hamilton has not won for 10 races and another defeat would be the longest drought of a Formula One career that started at McLaren in 2007 and in which he has won at least once every year.
Mercedes have some “new bits” and the track should better suit their car, notoriously prone to bouncing.
They will also have strong local support, with Hamilton’s compatriot George Russell making his home Mercedes debut, but the pace may still be lacking.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and say that at the moment we are just a little bit behind those front-runners in Ferrari and Red Bull,” said technical director Mike Elliott.
“In a normal race I think it is going to be tough. Silverstone will be a circuit that suits us a little better, like Barcelona did, but maybe it will be just a little bit difficult.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.