Ralf: Verstappen has psychological edge over Hamilton

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, walking down stairs. Brazil, November 2021.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, walking down stairs at the Sao Paulo GP. Brazil, November 2021.

When it comes to the power of the mind in the battle for the 2021 title, Ralf Schumacher feels Max Verstappen has the advantage.

Only eight points separate Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton going into the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, where Verstappen can potentially turn his advantage into a title-securing one.

But while on track there is so little separating both drivers as they pursue the same prize, in the context of their careers and what the triumph would mean they are at complete opposite ends of that particular scale.

Hamilton already has the most victories and pole positions of any Formula 1 driver in history among several other records, but by winning an eighth title this season the 36-year-old would topple the final and biggest record left standing by becoming the only driver to be crowned World Champion eight times.

As for Verstappen, this is his first shot at the Drivers’ Championship but, still aged only 24, it would be very surprising if it was also his last.

And so, mentally, Schumacher believes that gives Verstappen the advantage over Hamilton.

“At the end of the day, Max can lose and still say to himself ‘well, we were close, it just didn’t work out, but I still have enough time to try again’,” Schumacher told Sky Germany.

“That’s a bit different for Lewis. So from my view, more pressure is on him.”

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen bump fists. Qatar November 2021
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen bump fists. Qatar November 2021

On several occasions this season the pair have banged wheels when fighting on track, most notably at Silverstone where Verstappen was punted out on Lap 1, and then at Monza which ended the race for both drivers at the opening chicane.

But when the chance has been there to back out, it has been Hamilton who has taken it by choice, most recently seen at Turn 4 during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Hamilton believes that is the “clever” thing to do and preserve his title push, but Schumacher feels Hamilton is now up against it as with two races to go and eight points to overturn, he can no longer be so submissive to Verstappen’s aggressive driving.

“Lewis, of course,” said Schumacher when asked whether it would be Hamilton or Verstappen who backed down on track.

“He already did that in Brazil and he did it very skilfully. I found the whole discussion about penalties a little strange afterwards, but Hamilton needs to watch out for Max for the simple reason that he is leading.”


And to that point, Schumacher hopes Verstappen will not go along with the outside talk that he could ensure a crash happens.

“I hope we get through these last two races without an accident. There are some people saying Max could make a crash happen but I really don’t hope for that,” Schumacher affirmed.

“And the bottom line is I think the fans want to see the better driver win with a fair decision.”


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