Crucial improvement Max Verstappen must make to beat Lewis Hamilton to Formula One title

F1: Red Bull's Verstappen gets in shape for new season

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While Max Verstappen currently leads the Formula One drivers’ world championship by four points, even the Dutchman will admit he needs to make a major improvement in the remaining 17 races of the season. The Red Bull man’s main title rival is the relentless Lewis Hamilton, who has won the last four drivers’ titles.

Verstappen finally has a car which can match Hamilton’s Mercedes, which has been the dominant car of the last decade.

It appears that this could be the closest title race for some time, with Verstappen and Hamilton frequently being the fastest drivers each weekend.

While Verstappen has picked up 105 points in the opening six rounds having won two races, he could be forgiven for feeling that number should be far more.

The Red Bull has surprisingly emerged as arguably the best car on the grid this season, more than capable of delivering wins.

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That is reflected if a glance is taken at the number of laps each title challenger has led so far this season.

Through the first six rounds, Verstappen has led an astonishing 251 laps out of a possible 380 following last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

By contrast, Hamilton has led only 84 laps so far this season and yet he has picked up the most wins so far this term.

The Englishman has stood on the top step of the podium three times compared to Verstappen’s two outings there, though the Dutchman has finished second for each of Hamilton’s wins.

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There are a number of reasons behind Verstappen having failed to convert his dominance in the number of laps led into wins.

At the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, where he led for 29 laps, many expected that Verstappen would be able to overtake Hamilton towards the end of the race.

While the Dutchman did catch up and attempt an overtake with five laps remaining, he was forced to give the place back and failed to carve out another opportunity.

After scoring his first win of the season at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in the next time out and finishing second in Portugal, Verstappen and the F1 circus travelled to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.

This was perhaps the most frustrating loss of Verstappen’s season so far, as the 23-year-old led for 54 of the 66 laps before a strategic masterstroke by Mercedes allowed Hamilton to win.

Verstappen was to be denied again in Baku last Sunday, after Red Bull had got the better of Mercedes at the pit stops to put their driver in position to win.

He appeared to be cruising to his third win of the season when with five laps left of the race to go, a tyre failure caused him to crash out.

Hamilton’s failure to score points ensured he kept his championship lead, but Verstappen must begin converting his dominance in races into wins if he is to hold off Hamilton and win his first title.
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