Two years after their epic battle for the 2021 world title, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen look set to lock horns, or come close again, at this weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
After finishing second on track behind the three-time Red Bull champion in Austin and Mexico, Mercedes will be hoping Hamilton can bring home a win in Brazil, as team-mate George Russell did 12 months ago to win his maiden its a one-two punch for the silver arrows.
But they know Verstappen will give nothing away on commitment or pace as he seeks to continue his winning record at the atmospheric Interlagos circuit which has seen plenty of racing drama.
Mercedes’ last victory came in Brazil with Russell last year, while since then Red Bull have scored 19 victories, 17 by Verstappen and two by Sergio Perez, in an unprecedented run of success broken only by a solitary Carlos Sainz triumph for Ferrari in Singapore.
Russell also won the sprint last year, while Hamilton, with a superb run through the field, won the 2021 Grand Prix.
With the team winning six of their last eight at Interlagos, overall confidence is high this weekend.
“We go there knowing we have a good car and believing that if we get all our ducks in a row then we can have a very strong weekend,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Hamilton agreed, suggesting: “These next two will be very close, but I’m sure Max will get 18 or 19 this year.”
Hamilton, a three-time winner in Brazil, has been really competitive in the last two races, even if he was eliminated in Texas, and with vociferous support in a country that has adopted him as an honorary Brazilian, he is sure to do his best to to repay the fans who regard him as one of their own, in the absence of a Brazilian driver.
Verstappen will take a 52nd career victory and 17th of the year to move within 53 of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
“He is not obsessed with chasing records or statistics,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said.
“But he knows more than you think — he just has an inner desire, an inner belief, an inner hunger that drives him all the time. It’s something he shares with all the greats.”
After his first round crash and retirement in Mexico, Perez will also be strongly motivated.
He sits second in the title race by just 20 points over Hamilton with three races remaining, and Horner has been impressed by how eager Red Bull are to finish first and second for the first time.
“Mexico was devastating for me, but these things happen,” said Perez, whose future with the team has been the subject of much speculation.
“You can’t afford what happened or what could have been. My focus is to finish second and have a great weekend in Brazil.”
In another sprint race weekend, with just one practice session on Friday, Ferrari will also be hoping to be a competitive force and McLaren to show more consistency in what promises to be an action-packed weekend.
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