Wednesday 7 March 2018

Verstappen Needs Fast Start To Compete, by Andy Davies

To take the next stage in his development, Max Verstappen has to make a fast start to the 2018 Formula One Drivers' Championship. The Dutchman has the potential to challenge Lewis Hamilton at the top of F1, but has to find the consistency that eluded him in the last campaign. Verstappen announced himself on the scene with a victory in his first race at Red Bull. He became the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix when he triumphed in Spain in 2016. The Dutchman continued to perform well for the rest of his maiden term with the Austrian outfit, finishing fifth in the Drivers' Championship.

However, the 20-year-old was unable to kick on from his promising first season with a contender. A number of retirements hindered his progress. Verstappen found a semblance of form towards the end of the campaign, recording two victories, although he still finished well off the pace in sixth place.
Red Bull has made improvements to its car for the 2018 campaign, but whether it's enough to challenge Hamilton at the top is another matter. The Dutchman is backed in the latest F1 betting odds at 9/2 to win the crown, although it will take a special effort to dislodge Hamilton.

His primary aim will be to get off to a better start than the 2017 season. Verstappen placed in fifth in the opening race in Melbourne and then recorded a podium finish in China. However the young Dutchman completed just two of the next seven races, which effectively ended his potential challenge for the crown. Following his retirement in Austria after a collision in the opening lap of the race, he was 126 points off Vettel, highlighting the struggles of Red Bull and the driver.

Verstappen flashed his potential in the final five races, which is the great hope for Red Bull to break the stranglehold that Mercedes has enjoyed in the sport since 2014. He put forward a fine performance in Malaysia, passing Hamilton in the early stages of the meet and fending off the Brit down the stretch to close out the victory. He then finished second in Japan, using pace and guile to place ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.

After displaying the pace to defeat Hamilton, Ricciardo and Bottas, the Dutchman then managed to knock off Vettel. The German had pole position in Mexico, but the 20-year-old beat him out early in the contest and held course for the remainder of the race to clinch his third career win. Verstappen has all the tools needed to challenge for the crown. However, he has to at least stay within striking distance of Mercedes and Ferrari in the early stages of the term. It's on Red Bull to provide reliability and speed to the Dutchman this term, but he also needs to curb his ambition early in races and control his aggression on the track. With those attributes in play, Verstappen has the potential to challenge Hamilton at the top.

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