How Max Verstappen’s key weapon could sway Lewis Hamilton title battle

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Former F1 driver Damon Hill thinks Red Bull have found their edge again thanks to the return of their chief technical officer Adrian Newey, who has recently missed a chunk of their 2021 campaign following a bike crash during the summer break.

Max Verstappen stormed to victory at the United States Grand Prix, with Red Bull out-foxing Mercedes to perform the perfect undercut in the first pit stop window in Austin.

Lewis Hamilton was unable to fight back at the end of the race despite being on fresher tyres, with the Dutchman extending his lead by 12 points in the standings with just five races remaining.

Newey meanwhile has played a key role for Red Bull over the last few decades, having contributed to their run of four Drivers’ and Constructors’ title doubles from 2010-13 alongside Sebastian Vettel, as well as also designing title-winning cars for Williams and McLaren.

But, after returning in Turkey, Hill believes it’s clear the British engineer has helped unlock the missing piece Red Bull have been missing over the past few races.

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“I want to get to the bottom of how much influence Adrian [Newey] had [in the strategy call], because Adrian had this little whoopsy on the bicycle in the summer, and he’s been away from it for a bit,” said Hill speaking on the podcast F1 Nation.

“But he was back there this weekend in Austin, and Red Bull did not look on the pace from the get-go, and Mercedes looked like they had an advantage.

“But they worked away and got better and better, and some people feel in Turkey, Red Bull were just not optimising the car and actually it wasn’t so much Mercedes had found something, it was more Red Bull had lost something or not extracted the very best from their set up.

“They certainly got better and better over the weekend in Austin.”

Newey’s absence was felt at Red Bull, however, boss Christian Horner felt the way the media had reported the accident suggested it was far worse than it was.

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“Things like that are sometimes over-reported,” Horner explained to Motorsport-Total.com. “It’s true that he had an accident on his holiday. Fortunately, he’s back to full fitness – for a few weeks now. He was already on-site in Istanbul and he’s in good shape.”

Newey returned for the Turkish Grand Prix with the championship on a knife-edge between Verstappen and Hamilton, and Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Mark said his return made an immediate difference at the team.

“We are well-positioned in terms of breadth, but of course Newey is the figurehead,” Marko told Sky Sports Germany.

“In the early stages we didn’t know how serious the injury was, and he had to have several operations.

“But now he is back. I don’t want to say he’s fully fit, but he is there to do his job and he also immediately recognised the difficulties we had in the set-up.”

Verstappen now holds a 12 point lead heading into the final five races of the season, with Red Bull hopeful of their first title since 2013.

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