Mika Hakkinen: Max Verstappen has 'confidence and focus' to take title

Mika Hakkinen believes Max Verstappen’s Dutch Grand Prix performance shows he has the mettle to take his first World Championship.

The home hero managed to keep both Mercedes drivers at arm’s length throughout the race at Zandvoort, under relentless pressure from Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton in particular managed to close the gap to the Red Bull on a couple of occasions, but once Verstappen managed to clear traffic, he was able to calmly ease his way clear and re-take the lead of the Drivers’ Championship, by taking victory in front of a passionate home crowd.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner heaped praise on his driver by saying “pressure doesn’t seem to exist” with him, and two-time World Champion Hakkinen echoes this sentiment, by saying the 23-year-old has maturity beyond his years.

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“We know the Red Bull-Honda is the quickest package this season,” Hakkinen stated in his post-race column with Unibet.

“Although the accidents in Silverstone and Budapest damaged Max’s season and allowed Lewis Hamilton to lead the World Championship at the start of the summer holiday, what we saw in Zandvoort shows that Max continues to have the best car under him.

“What is also clear is that he has the confidence and focus necessary to win this World Championship.

“There was a lot of pressure on him at the weekend – and it is amazing to remember he is still only 23 years old – but he did not let anything distract him.

“Mercedes put up a good fight. Lewis and Valtteri Bottas did everything they could to find a strategy that would put them ahead of Max.

“Ultimately there was nothing that they could do to catch the Red Bull.”

While Verstappen has taken the lead away from Hamilton in the Drivers’ standings, Red Bull lost more ground to Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship after Sergio Perez’s poor qualifying performance hampered his chances in the race.

The Mexican was able to work his way back into the points after starting from the pit lane, but could not be a factor in Red Bull’s strategy to cover off Mercedes’ attacks – which Hakkinen feels the team need to sort as soon as they can.

“One thing which Red Bull need to work on is helping Sergio Perez to support Max more closely because Mercedes will always have Lewis and Valtteri working well together.

“In such a close Championship fight, having a strong team-mate is going to be critical to securing victory.”

 

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