Sorry Max, Smart Money Is Still on Lewis Hamilton in F1 Title Chase

Mike Pryson
·4 min read
Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images
  • Max Verstappen scored his first win of the 2021 Formula 1 season on Sunday at Imola, Italy.

  • Seven-time season champion Lewis Hamilton finished second and still leads the points championship.

  • Many pundits and armchair experts on social media claim the Red Bull cars are faster than the Mercedes this season. We're not ready to jump on that bandwagon just yet.

Despite Max Verstappen's win in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the smart money is still on Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to win the 2021 Formula 1 championship.

Verstappen's win was impressive. Give him that.

Hamilton's runner-up finish was more impressive.

Hamilton, the seven-time F1 champion, came back from a spin into the gravel during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola that sent him all the way back to ninth place. And, in a racing series where passes for position in the midfield are causes for midrace highlights on TV broadcasts, Hamilton charged from ninth all the way back to a second-place finish over the final 32 laps in Italy.

Photo credit: Mark Thompson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mark Thompson - Getty Images

"On my side, it was not the greatest of days," Hamilton said in the podium finishers' post-race press conference in Imola, Italy. "It’s the first time I’ve made a mistake in a long time, but I’m grateful I was able to bring the car home still."

Not only did Hamilton bring the car home, he brought it home with the F1 Drivers' Championship points lead. He leads Verstappen by a point, while Mercedes also leads the even more important (to the teams, because that's where the prize money is at) F1 Constructors' Championship.

Hamilton's mistake occurred on lap 31 of the 63-lap race when he got out of the dry line on a track still littered with wet spots following pre-race rains that lingered into the opening minutes of the race.

"Yeah, there was only one dry line, and I guess I was in a bit too much of a hurry to get by everyone," Hamilton said. "Coming to the inside, I could see it was wet and I was trying to stop, but the thing wouldn’t stop and it sent me off. A bit unfortunate, but I’m really, really grateful that we got to get going again and to get some points for the team was really important today."

When Hamilton started his charge, TV pundits projected that if Hamilton could get back to sixth or maybe even fifth place, he could salvage the day and at least lessen the hit on his championship hopes. No one gave him a shot at the podium, let alone second place and a chance to retain his championship points lead.

"I wasn’t thinking about it," Hamilton said. "I was just trying to get over the gutting feeling it is when you make a mistake and just moving on from it and just learning real quick and you don’t have time to dwell on it so that’s what I did—get back into the racing spirit.

Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images

"I didn’t know whether or not we would be able to overtake, because again, offline was going to be wet, but still had some great battles with all the guys."

Many on social media and on the TV side, in particular, have tried to make their point that Red Bull and Max Verstappen are faster than Mercedes and Hamilton this season. Based on what? Hamilton sat on the pole this past week in Imola and also had the fastest lap of the race.

In the season opener, Verstappen sat on the pole, but when it came to race day, Hamilton stood on the top step of the podium and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas turned in the fastest lap.

And Hamilton leads the points.

Maybe it's time to start criticizing Verstappen. If he's got the faster car, how come he's not the one leading the championship? How come he has yet to turn in a fastest lap of the race this season?

Betting sites (betting is legal in more states than ever) across the board list Hamilton as the favorite for the series' next race in Portugal on May 2.

Maybe they haven't heard that Verstappen and Red Bull are faster.

Or they're not buying it, either.

Are you buying that Max Verstappen is the F1 title favorite in 2021? Start the discussion in the comments section below.