Max Verstappen warned he 'can't defend' against Lewis Hamilton pace at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Hamilton arrives at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix level on points with Verstappen after winning three races in a row

Jamie Braidwood
Tuesday 07 December 2021 13:19
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Verstappen ‘Will Do Everything’ To Beat Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has warned driver Max Verstappen that Lewis Hamilton is difficult to defend against on current form and given the straight-line speed of his Mercedes car.

Hamilton has won the last three races since changing his engine at the Brazil Grand Prix to move level on points with Verstappen ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.

The seven-time world champion had the long-run advantage at the first-ever Saudi Arabia Grand Prix and was almost a second faster than Verstappen in sectors one and two at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Verstappen was able to get ahead of Hamilton following a red-flag restart on Sunday but the Mercedes closed down the 24-year-old Dutchman on the straights and was able to supply significant pressure.

“You know, you can’t defend against that,” Horner told the F1 Nation podcast. “It’s the most frustrating thing for a driver to be sitting with that kind of deficit.

“That’s what I think has been really frustrating, the last three or four races we have just been watching that dominant straight-line performance, which you can’t do anything about.”

Verstappen was ordered to let Hamilton through after he pushed his title rival wide as he looked to make a move around the outside in the closing stages of the race.

The title rivals then collided in a dramatic incident which led Hamilton to accuse Verstappen of driving “over the limit”.

Verstappen would win his first F1 title if be beats Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, or if neither driver finishes the race as he has nine wins to Hamilton’s eight.

“Max is a fighter and if there’s a driver that deserves to win this world championship, it’s Max Verstappen, because Mercedes have had the better car,” Horner added.

“He has driven outstandingly. Look how close Valtteri [Bottas] has been to Lewis this year. Max has been head and shoulders, for me, the driver of the year.

“He would be very deserving, you know, to win this championship. The way he’s driven this year, the way he’s conducted himself, I think has been outstanding.”

There have been a number of changes to the Yas Marina Circuit as F1 heads to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the what has been the most enthralling season in recent memory.

The track has been shortened and the number of corners has been reduced from 21 to 16 in an attempt to make the circuit faster and allow for more overtaking.

“The changes to the track, which have been designed to provide more overtaking opportunities, will increase speeds and loads through some corners,” said circuit designer Jarno Zaffelli.

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