In a short, pre-podium conversation, Lewis Hamilton may have just given Max Verstappen something to think about, and guided the Dutchman towards future titles.
The 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix was a fantastic race from the offset, and once again Max Verstappen proved RedBull is a force to be reckoned with.
The Dutchman had his RB14 on rails, and after a clean start set about making his way past Sebastian Vettel and Valterri Bottas with ease. Lapping quicker and quicker on his supersoft Pirelli’s, Verstappen was able to get to the tail of 2018 champion Lewis Hamilton after executing a brilliant inlap-stop-outlap sequence.
RedBull’s decision to focus on race set-up on Friday was paying off.
On lap 40 Verstappen took the lead into the Senna-S, and set about gapping Hamilton.
Max’s three second lead would all be eradicated by a collision with Esteban Ocon. The Force India driver was a lap behind and attempted to unlap himself on the race leader, hoping for a rather lenient Verstappen.
Ocon would receive a 10s penalty for causing a collision.
Despite fighting back to take second place, Max Verstappen was visibly and audibly upset with the Force India pilot.
Post-race, and in the pre-podium drivers room, 5-time World Champion Hamilton uttered words that may help Verstappen to future titles.
“But you had more to lose,” Hamilton explained.
This observation of the mid-race incident left Verstappen silent.
It was in this moment that Verstappen learnt that running clean and avoiding unnecessary risk is how to win races, and titles.
Lewis Hamilton was oft criticised in his formative years for being unable to see the bigger picture, making moves and taking risks that would damage his points tally.
Yes, this balls-to-the-wall attitude has helped Hamilton carve one of the most successful careers in Formula One, but the Brit had to learn when to back down.
In 2012, Hamilton was in a strong championship position in the opening few races, yet a incident with Pastor Maldondo at Valencia made it all the more difficult for him to mount a serious championship challenge.
Had he settled for fourth, and solidified his points tally, the then McLaren driver may have been able to challenge for the title
Throughout 2013 Hamilton struggled with a Mercedes that was strong on Saturday but weak on Sunday, and started to realise that a solid race performance will bolster championship chances.
Since the start of the Hybrid Era in 2014, Hamilton has proved himself to be one of the best in terms of ‘race management’.
In early 2014, he was able to match and outperform teammate Nico Rosberg whilst being more fuel efficient, ultimately allowing him to up his pace in the latter stages of a Grand Prix.
Fast forward to 2018 and prior to the Abu Dhabi GP Lewis Hamilton recorded only DNF, and has not finished a race outside the top five. This is how you win a championship.
It is this ability to manage the car, manage his position on track, and generate the greatest output from whatever situation that has maximised Hamilton’s success.
Max Verstappen is in the opening stanza’s of his F1 career, yet this only presents more time in which to learn and apply vital techniques, race management is certainly one of them.
His wins in Austria and Mexico displayed his ability to simultaneously be the fastest car on track and manage the race.
Had Verstappen let Ocon past at Brazil then Hamilton would have needed a near miracle to win, yet the Dutchman’s eagerness to be number one on track was his ultimate demise. Ocon was not challenging for the win, the Force India driver was actually struggling to make it into the points, had Max (and his team) understood the risk he posed the win was theirs.
The fastest car on track wont always take the top step of the podium, and in an era of highly conservative racing Max Verstappen must realise that race management wins Grand Prix.
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