Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Lewis Hamilton has been warned Max Verstappen’s 2021 Driver’s Championship triumph could usher in an era of Red Bull dominance in Formula One and end his hopes of surpassing Michael Schumacher’s tally of titles. The Briton was left heartbroken by the way he lost out on this year’s crown, with his team principal Toto Wolff declaring his driver had been “robbed” of victory.
Hamilton was looking to clinch an eighth triumph in Abu Dhabi earlier this month but instead remains locked on seven along with Ferrari icon Schumacher after being thwarted by rival Verstappen on the last lap of the race.
The Briton had led for much of the Yas Marina Circuit showdown but was overtaken upon the race restart after a late safety car, with FIA race director Michael Masi receiving criticism for his decision-making.
Verstappen’s title was the first of his career and the Dutchman, who is just 24 and now has 20 race wins to his name with only Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso boasting more of the current F1 grid, has been tipped to become a multiple-time world champion.
Hamilton by contrast is now 36 and the Mercedes driver is steadily nearing his retirement from the sport, though he is under contract with the Silver Arrows for at least another two seasons.
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Team boss Toto Wolff has suggested it is not certain Hamilton will race in 2022 but it is expected the Briton will still take his place on the grid next season once he deals with the disappointment of his controversial defeat.
Yet even if he does drive again for world champions Mercedes next year, former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer who raced for Lotus and Renault insists Verstappen and Red Bull may be about to oversee a new era of dominance.
Mercedes have won the last eight team titles and had seen one of their drivers, either Hamilton or Nico Rosberg in 2016, win the Driver’s Championship in each of the last seven years.
“You wonder where he can go from here now that he has his first title under his belt,” Palmer wrote of Verstappen in his column on the official F1 website.
“It’s worth remembering that when Sebastian Vettel took victory for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi in 2010, to become the youngest ever world champion, it was the start of a run four titles in succession for the German…
“Red Bull have been rejuvenated this season and are absolutely at one with their driver, giving him their full backing when questions were asked, and deploying every possible tactic to maximise the Dutchman’s efforts, as showcased by Sergio Perez’s heroics on the weekend as well.
“Had Verstappen not won this year, with his immense talent and determination, it would be inevitable his day would come at some point,” Palmer said.
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“But with him winning now, you wonder what confidence he can take from it and where he can go.
“For a driver who has demolished three successive team-mates in three years and made only a handful of small mistakes in that time, you question what scope their even is for improvement.
“But if he can take his game onto another level from here, we could be about to see the start of a new era of dominance.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris believes that Verstappen came out on top despite having an inferior car to seven-time world champion Hamilton.
“I don’t think he had a better car throughout the season,” said the 22-year-old Briton, as per Motorsport-total.com.
“Mercedes had the stronger car in most cases, but he (Verstappen) had less bad luck and made less mistakes as a driver.”
“I’m happy for him. I congratulate him on what he has done this season. He’s taken on Lewis, who is much more experienced and has won many titles.
“He’s (Verstappen) a good friend of mine. I congratulated him first, but then I also went to Lewis because he also had an incredible season and did a lot of things right to become champion. I respect both of them a lot.”
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