Max Verstappen concerns raised by Damon Hill to offer Charles Leclerc fighting chance

Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton

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Damon Hill has raised concerns that Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s reliability could play into Charles Leclerc and Ferrari’s hands. The 1996 champion believes “things will happen between now and the end of the season” with reliability likely to play a major factor in the title race.

He claimed the championship is “still too close to call” despite Verstappen’s 34-point advantage over Leclerc, his nearest non-Red Bull challenger. Hill thinks Red Bull is “not on top of everything yet” after two retirements earlier on in the season which could throw Ferrari a lifeline.

Leclerc was forced to retire in the early stages of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as his Ferrari went up in plumes of smoke. It was the Monegasque’s second retirement in three races after a mechanical failure forced him out in Spain.

When asked if the retirement was title-deciding, Hill explained the season was still “all to play for”. Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, he said: “No I don’t think it is, I still think it’s too close to call.

“I think there’s definitely reliability questions still on the side of Red Bull as well. I don’t think they are completely on top of everything yet. These are new cars, things will happen between now and the end of the season.

“I think it’s all to play for. Because it’s spread around between quite a few cars I think the championship is still very tight for this stage.

“We’ve seen championships at this point in the championship where people have got 35-point leads and even bigger than that. No, I think it’s still open.”

Verstappen was forced to retire from the Bahrain and Australian Grands Prix which gave Leclerc an early advantage. After Melbourne, Verstappen was sixth in the standings, 46 points behind Leclerc.

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However, after Azerbaijan Red Bull boss Christian Horner said he feared Ferrari could come back into the fight. He claimed Ferrari had “dominated” on Saturday afternoons in qualifying compared to Red Bull.

He said the team had only “capitalised on misfortune” to lead the championship in an apparent fear the Scuderia could bounce back. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen’s dad Jos was also not getting carried away warning the title could “change in an instant”.

He said: “After the two retirements at the start of the season, everyone thought it could be lost. Now you see Ferrari is currently having problems, but things can change in an instant and it remains a very technical sport. Then you notice that Red Bull often has things in order, with their skilled people and experience.”

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