Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton told to expect ‘even tougher time’ vs Max Verstappen in Austria

Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button

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Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have been warned about Red Bull Racing’s threat ahead of the Austrian stretch of the 2021 Formula One World Championship. Red Bull and Max Verstappen have emerged as serious contenders in the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships, respectively, this season.

Verstappen dramatically pipped Hamilton in last weekend’s French Grand Prix to secure his third race win of the campaign.

The 23-year-old has also recorded the fastest lap in three of the seven Grand Prix’s this season.

Most importantly, though, Verstappen currently leads Hamilton by 12 points in the Drivers’ Championship.

Meanwhile, Red Bull Racing have a 37 point lead on Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship, threatening to end the latter’s seven-year winning run.

The last time Mercedes had any competition in the Constructors’ standings was in 2018, when Ferrari trailed by 84 points in second.

Red Bull look capable of ending their reign of dominance, though, and former Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin has backed them.

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Sirotkin – currently a reserve driver – believes Red Bull Racing are ‘stronger’ than Mercedes this season, thanks to the compromise they’ve found with the RB16B.

He said: “This is the first moment since Mercedes took over in 2014 that we can really say Red Bull is stronger.

“[The RB16B] performs well on different tracks, in different conditions and on different tyres.

“That, in turn, gives them more opportunities to overtake. You could also see in the braking zones that they are really faster on the straights.”

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Sirotkin explained that the RB16B would have the advantage at power circuits like the Red Bull Ring, which hosts Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix.

“With this package, they will go well at power circuits where top speed is even more important than at Paul Ricard,” Sirotkin continued.

“Such as Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and soon, to a lesser extent, the Red Bull Ring.

“So I expect Mercedes to have an even harder time there against Red Bull.”

After the Red Bull Ring, Formula One stays in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix.

There’s still more than half of the season to go, but it will be interesting to see what shape the standings are in as the tour goes to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix the following week.

Hamilton has a serious challenger in Verstappen, and fans will hope the latter can continue raising his level.

If the Belgian driver goes all the way and wins his first world title, he’ll be the first person to win it that isn’t Lewis Hamilton since 2016 when Nico Rosberg triumphed.

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