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The best and worst part of Formula 1 racing in this season of drama featuring Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is that the races are two weeks apart.

The worst aspect of the F1 schedule is that there typically is an off week in between races, which is out of necessity. Massively staffed teams lugging tons of equipment around need time to tear down and set up between races, sometimes moving between continents.

The best aspect, and this is a lesson the NFL should take to heart with respect to the Super Bowl, is that the main players in Formula 1 manage to keep the fan base intrigued and entertained during those two weeks.

There was a time when Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton got along much better. | Attila Kisbenedek AFP via Getty Images
There was a time when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton got along much better. | Attila Kisbenedek AFP via Getty Images

For example, Hamilton just broadsided Verstappen with this observation:

“Ultimately, we all have to be smart and know that there’s a time where you’re not going to make a corner. It’s all about making sure you live to fight the next corner.”

Lewis Hamilton

Boom. As if the entirety of the F1 community hadn’t already spent 10 days telling Verstappen that he nearly killed Hamilton with an ill-advised corner maneuver at the Italian Grand Prix that took both drivers out of the race, the seven-time world champion felt compelled to remind him one more time.

Can anyone recall Tom Brady or Bill Belichick ever taking a shot like that at their counterparts before any of their many Super Bowls? With a little spice like what Hamilton added to the stew ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, the NFL might do much better than attracting just 30% of American viewers to the country’s most hyped annual event.

Better yet on the part of F1, Hamilton’s observation wasn’t even the best bit of dialogue during the week. Up until now, Hamilton and Verstappen have been described as reasonably cordial and respectful toward each other. That’s beginning to look like fiction.

In the same media session in which he made the “live to fight the next corner” remark, Hamilton appeared to suggest that Verstappen is suffering from “the yips,” the malady occasionally affecting golfers on the putting green.

“I know what it’s like having your first fight for your first championship, and your eagerness, and you go through lots of different experiences and emotions during that time,” Hamilton said. “I do believe that we will continue to get stronger and I’m hopeful we won’t have any more incidents through the year.”

The context is that Hamilton, 36, has been driving in Formula 1 since 2007. On the other hand, Verstappen, 23, only came aboard in 2015. Though he leads Hamilton by a slim five points this season, Verstappen has never finished high than third in the World Drivers’ Championship standings.

Verstappen didn’t much appreciate his rival’s analysis.

“Yeah, I’m so nervous I can barely sleep. I mean, it’s so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it. Yeah.”

Max Verstappen

Ordinarily, those would be fighting words adding even more excitement to the Russian Grand Prix. As usual this Formula 1 season, Verstappen and Hamilton should qualify at or near the top of the 20-car field this weekend in Sochi.

However, they are unlikely to start near one another.

On Friday, the Red Bull Racing team revealed that they went to the fourth engine of the season. That is one more than permitted, and Red Bull also changed additional power unit features. Consequently, Verstappen will start on the back row on Sunday.


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Given that, the Dutch driver will at ease in qualifying, which may move to Sunday morning because of weather. On the other hand, Hamilton will have to be in top form.

In 2018, Verstappen took a similar penalty at the Russian GP. When the race ended, he had climbed all the way to fifth place, which constituted a moral victory.

He could do the same this time around, but every pass attempt comes with consequences, as he learned the hard way at the Italian Grand Prix. If Verstappen doesn’t recall, Hamilton will be happy to remind him.

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