Hamilton trails his rival by 19 points with just four races left this year, with the Briton essentially needing a flawless end to the season if he is to have any hope of overturning the Dutchman’s lead.
Defending champion Hamilton is seeking to go clear of joint-record holder Michael Schumacher on eight world titles, while Red Bull’s Verstappen is aiming to win his first drivers’ championship.
“There is no doubt that Max’s victory [in Mexico last weekend] has given him a strong lead in the World Championship with only four races remaining,” Hakkinen wrote in his UniBet column, “but in my opinion a lot can still happen in this battle between Red Bull and Mercedes.
“While the next grand prix in Brazil should again suit Max’s car, Lewis Hamilton won at Interlagos in 2016 and 2018. We then head to two new circuits in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which means neither team has any data from previous events on which to rely.
“They will of course use simulation technology to predict performance, but you never really know how a car and tyres will work until you start running. Freshly-surfaced, new tracks can be oily, dusty and definitely tricky. Red Bull have shown a small but important pace advantage, however I am certain that the next four races will produce surprises.”
Hakkinen won back-to-back F1 titles in 1998 and 1999, having claimed both championships in the final race of each of those seasons.
“This is when the psychology of the driver and his team will become important,” the 53-year-old wrote. “When everything is going well, it can start to feel easy, but it’s when something goes wrong that championship-winners show just how good they are.
“I won both my World Championships at the final race of the season, so I know what it’s like to have a tight battle. Every point counts, and so too does every technical issue or accident. You have to keep your focus, and keep working hard with everyone in the team to make sure nothing is taken for granted.
“If you relax, the other guy is always waiting to take an opportunity. In my experience, therefore, it’s never over until the chequered flag falls on the last race. I feel sure this World Championship can go all the way to Abu Dhabi.
“Mercedes will do everything they can to make that happen, and no one should discount Lewis Hamilton’s ability to give Max plenty to think about during these final races. He likes a challenge, and that’s what Max is to Lewis. Much can still happen.”
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