Hamilton and Max are ‘not crossing the line…yet’

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix Portimao

Lewis Hamilton holds the first place trophy aloft at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

Toto Wolff says that Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s battle is yet to “cross the line” on track due to the risk of losing ground in the Drivers’ Championship.

The two predicted title protagonists have gone toe-to-toe in each of the three Grands Prix in 2021 so far, with seven-time World Champion Hamilton moving eight points clear of the Dutchman in the standings after a battling victory at Portimao on Sunday.

Despite what looks set to be a season-long fight between the pair for the 2021 season, the Mercedes team principal says that Hamilton is “completely relaxed” about what lies ahead.

“I think they are not crossing the line on the track yet, because the risk of losing points is just too big,” Wolff reasoned, per Motorsport.com. “But it’s going to go head-to-head, and certainly the rivalry may increase or not.

“I see Lewis completely relaxed about the situation. He enjoys every bit working with the team and getting us up to speed because we weren’t there. It’s just a fun place.”

Lewis Hamilton Max Verstappen Portimao 2021 PA

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Hamilton showed his ruthless streak as he fought to victory at Portimao. Verstappen passed the Briton around the outside of Turn 1 after restarting behind the Safety Car, before Hamilton retook the position three laps later and overtook Bottas to take a lead he would not relinquish.

Former Mercedes team-mate and 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg said that Verstappen now knows just how tough Hamilton is to beat, and Wolff believes that, while the W12 appeared more competitive in Portugal, it was the 97-time race winner’s skill that paid off on the day.

“I think we had a good car, [it was] first time we were really able to compete for pole,” Wolff explained.

“Maybe we were a tenth off. A good race car, but again, also very close to the Red Bulls, and [Hamilton] just drove an immaculate race.

“It makes no sense to talk about these exceptional Lewis performances, because they have been quite regular.

“It’s his standard now, and I think he sets that standard to himself.”

With the Silver Arrows predicted to be behind Red Bull in terms of performance at the start of the season, Wolff admits he is surprised by how his drivers have managed to beat the favourites for the Constructors’ Championship in the early rounds.

“No, I wouldn’t have believed that, because I am so in a way reliant on probabilities and math,” Wolff said when asked if he would have believed his team would be in the position they’re in at the moment.

“Based on these facts, I wouldn’t have expected to be on pole twice and winning two races. That was not what my brain would have told me.”

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