Verstappen the emerging threat

Verstappen had been F1’s man of the moment heading into the race, having emerged as the form driver in the last four rounds, outscoring even Hamilton. 

Excellent drives to victory in Austria and Germany had moved him up to third spot in the drivers’ standings and just a few more wins away from becoming a genuine challenger for the title. 

On Saturday in Hungary, Verstappen made the most of his ever-improving Red Bull machinery to end a 93-race wait for his first-ever F1 pole position, beating the Mercedes duo to the first spot on the grid with another impressive display. 

Speaking after qualifying, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff recognised the growing threat Verstappen is now posing to his own drivers title aspirations. 

“You can see from the sheer maths that Max is somebody we need to take seriously and consider a title rival in the same way we need to consider the two Ferrari drivers as title rivals,” Wolff said. “We cannot afford to take the foot off the throttle.”

On Sunday, Verstappen looked in command for much of the race and had soaked up intense pressure from a five-time world champion in the shape of Hamilton. It was only an inspired strategy call from Mercedes that caught both Red Bull and Verstappen off guard. 

Verstappen conceded the defeat in a manner that underlines his new-found maturity. He has balanced the raw edge that makes him so brilliant with a more calculated approach to his racing, resulting in his sensational 21-race streak of top five finishes. It is the sort of form that has propelled him to within seven points of second-placed man Bottas. 

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