Max Verstappen fired title battle warning as his behaviour is ‘on the limit’

F1: Hamilton v Verstappen in numbers

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Max Verstappen has been told that his consistent run-ins with the stewards might be what costs him the right to be called a world champion as the title race goes down to the wire. Just eight points separate the Dutchman from Lewis Hamilton, whose dominant form in his two most recent outings have propelled him right back into contention for an eighth world title.

After Sprint Qualifying in Brazil, less than a fortnight ago, Verstappen had scored two more points to finish second and start the following day’s race from there.

Hamilton, meanwhile, had produced a stunning drive to go from last – disqualification from Friday’s qualifying saw him sent to the back of the grid – to fifth, but another five-place penalty for an engine change meant he would be starting in 10th.

In theory, with Verstappen’s advantage on the grid, momentum from winning the previous two races and 21-point lead in the standings, it seemed inevitable he would make it three in a row and put one hand on the trophy.

In practice, an angered and visibly determined Hamilton flew through the field, won the race and did the same a week later in Qatar to bring himself right back into it.

During that time, Verstappen has been in front of the stewards for several reasons.

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First there was the touching of Hamilton’s rear wing in Brazil which saw him slapped with a fine, before he was warned on the Sunday for weaving on the track in his unsuccessful attempts to fend off his rival’s charge.

Perhaps the biggest talking point of their on-track battle that day went unpunished, as the Red Bull man seemed to force his rival well off the track on one corner, but race officials decided against getting involved in that one.

A week later, he was given a grid penalty in Qatar for failing to adhere to double yellow flags that were being waved during his final lap in qualifying.

Verstappen’s compatriot and former racer Jan Lammers is worried that his repeated run-ins with stewards might prove costly in his bid to do so, as it might mean they are less lenient for any key decisions that could arise in the final two races.

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“He just poked the organisation in the eye,” the current boss of the Dutch Grand Prix told the NOS F1 podcast.

“Of course, that’s all very well but it’s on the limit. Because what if a situation arises in the last Grand Prix where they are in doubt about whether to give a penalty or not?

“Or if they have to choose between a five or ten-second penalty? What do you think it will be?”

Despite those words of warning, Lammers still believes his countryman can get over the line and focus on his own performances rather than worry about the frightening pace Hamilton has shown in the last two weeks.

“Max is not someone who drives in reaction to his opponents, or whatever,” Lammers continued.

“He is someone who is very focused though, he is very concerned with what he is doing himself. He’s a bit indifferent towards everything around him. He is very much into his own story.

“Max actually always steps out of his car satisfied with his own contribution. He knows he always gives ‘maximum attack’, so he just did what he could in [Qatar] as well.

“He knew there was no more in it and the difference between what this car can do and what he does with it, you can see in [team-mate Sergio Perez] of course. He’s getting the maximum out of it.

“It’s not really frustrating for him, it is what it is.”

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