Mika Hakkinen believes Max Verstappen now has a huge advantage in the Formula 1 title race this year, but Lewis Hamilton cannot be ruled out.
Verstappen is 19 points ahead of Hamilton with back-to-back wins in the United States and Mexico as he pursues his first world title.
There are only four rounds left in 2021, with the Sao Paulo Grand Prix this weekend followed by inaugural trips to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, before the final in Abu Dhabi.
“There is no doubt that Max’s victory gave him a solid lead in the world championship with just four races to go,” Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.
“But in my opinion, a lot can still happen in this battle between Red Bull and Mercedes.
“While the next Brazilian Grand Prix should be suitable for Max’s car again, Lewis Hamilton won at Interlagos in 2016 and 2018.
“We are then heading to two new circuits in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which means neither team has data from previous events to build on.
“They’ll of course use simulation technology to predict performance, but you never really know how a car and tires will perform until you start racing. Freshly redone, new tracks can be oily, dusty, and definitely tricky.
“Red Bull showed a small but important pace advantage, but I’m sure the next four races will produce some surprises.
“This is when the psychology of the driver and his team will become important. When everything is going well it can start to seem easy, but it’s when something goes wrong that the championship winners show how good they are.
Hakkinen won his two world titles in the last race clashes in 1998 and 1999.
“Every point counts, just like every technical problem or accident,” he said.
“You have to stay focused and continue to work hard with everyone on the team to make sure nothing is taken for granted. If you’re chilling out, the other guy is still waiting for an opportunity.
“So in my experience it’s never over until the checkered flag falls on the last race.
“I’m sure this world championship can go all the way to Abu Dhabi.
“Mercedes will go out of their way to make this happen, and no one should overlook Lewis’s ability to give Max something to think about during these final races. He loves a challenge, and that’s what Max is for Lewis.