Verstappen has chance to break another Hamilton record ahead of final F1 races

Max Verstappen has the chance to match Lewis Hamilton’s career-best pole position tally in the final two rounds of the season. The Dutchman needs just one more pole to draw level with his rival on 12 P1 awards in one campaign.

Verstappen has been totally dominant this season claiming victory in 17 of the 20 races that have occurred thus far. However, the three-time world champion hasn’t always exerted that control during qualifying sessions.

Despite Red Bull claiming victory in 19 races already this season, the Milton Keynes-based team have had to make some sacrifices. Most notably, they have regularly sacrificed one-lap pace for superior set-ups on Sundays with the RB19’s sensational tyre degradation allowing Verstappen to comfortably manage longer stints while still maintaining blistering speeds.

This is something that was touched upon by McLaren team principal Andrea Stella earlier this season. His team haven’t registered a pole position in 2023, but Lando Norris has been the most consistent challenger to Verstappen in the second half of the campaign.

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“We have seen that when some of the cars get some grip from the soft tyres, certainly McLaren, we can almost close the gap to Red Bull – like in a Q3 session or the sprint shootout Q3,” he explained.

“But I think it was apparent already, even in the shootout on medium [tyres], that they had this advantage. Then, in the races, as soon as the tyres degrade and you have less grip available, you see that they can extract the real advantage from their car.”

The result of this sacrifice has been that Verstappen has just 11 pole positions to go alongside his 17 race wins this season, with team-mate Sergio Perez only able to register two. 

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The Mexican has been hit hard by the tighter margins on Saturdays, often showing impressive race pace to come through the field on Sundays but only after struggling to hook the car up during qualifying. This has often left him with too much to do and handed comfortable race wins to Verstappen.

Of the seven pole positions taken by non-Red Bull drivers this season, six of those have come from Ferrari with Charles Leclerc delivering four of those, including back-to-back P1 finishes in Austin and Mexico City. Unfortunately for him, these have yielded no victories.

The other three have been shared by Carlos Sainz and Hamilton, the latter of whom clinched his first pole position since the 2021 season with a sensational lap at the Hungaroring. 

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