Lewis Hamilton fears F1 crown could be slipping away after Max Verstappen's win in US

Dutch driver moves 12 points clear with five races remaining

Lewis Hamilton admitted he is braced for a tough battle to stop Max Verstappen from taking his Formula One crown after the Dutch driver raced to an impressive victory at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

Hamilton is now 12 points adrift of Verstappen and with the next rounds in Mexico and Brazil expected to suit his rival's Red Bull machinery, the British champion is concerned that a record-breaking eighth world title might be slipping away.

“We are going to the next two tracks which are very strong circuits for Red Bull so it is going to be tough,” said Hamilton, who finished 1.3 seconds behind Verstappen on Sunday.

“We will just try and minimise how strong they can be compared to us, and see if we can do a better job.

“I am trying not to think about it at the moment, but be happy with the job I did today. I am living in the moment and will take it one race at a time.”

Heading into Sunday’s 17th round of 22, Hamilton had triumphed in five of his eight appearances at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.

But after beating pole-sitter Verstappen to the opening bend with a fine start, Hamilton did not have the speed in his Mercedes to pull out a significant gap.

Verstappen then stole the initiative with an early stop, and while Hamilton – on younger rubber in the closing stages – took seven seconds out of the Dutchman’s lead to tee up a thrilling climax, he was unable to pose a real threat.

“The goal was to get in the lead, and I finally got a good start,” added Hamilton. “I have not had as good a start as that for a long time and I was really happy with it.

“So, it was about staying clean, coming out ahead, and holding on to it. It felt good at the time, and like, ‘hey this is step one’, but they were just too quick.”

Verstappen executed Red Bull’s aggressive strategy to claim his eighth win of a campaign which could see him claim his first title.

“I really didn’t think he was going to pull that off with Lewis on eight-lap fresher tyres,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

“You know Lewis is so strong, and he went longer on the tyres to give himself an advantage at the end.

“To lose here would’ve been really painful, but Max held on and did a great job.”

Hamilton’s battle with Verstappen will reconvene with three successive races in Mexico, Brazil and Qatar ahead of two back-to-back rounds in Saudi Arabia and the concluding race in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: October 25th 2021, 5:06 AM