Lewis Hamilton is refusing to give up on defending his Formula One title as rival Max Verstappen aims for another triumph in Austria this weekend. Verstappen became the first F1 driver to win three times at the Red Bull Ring as he raced clear of Hamilton last time out, triumphing by more than 35 seconds despite showboating as he crossed the line at the Styrian Grand Prix.
Red Bull and Verstappen return to their home circuit for the next race – the Austrian Grand Prix – and Mercedes, who have typically fared well on the track, will be aiming to drag Hamilton back into contention.
Mercedes are also 40 points behind Red Bull in the constructors' championship, yet when asked if he was having to accept the idea of missing out on the title for the first time since 2016, Hamilton gave a bullish response.
"Well, I don't accept anything," Hamilton told F1's official media channels. "I think we've still got many races ahead of us and we've got to keep pushing. We're world champions and we can definitely improve if we put our minds to it."
LAST TIME OUT
The Red Bull ring is Verstappen's favourite – in terms of track victories – after his efforts last Sunday.
Having qualified in pole, Verstappen swiftly pulled clear of Hamilton to clinch Red Bull's fourth straight victory – the first time the team has achieved such a feat in the hybrid era.
It was Verstappen's fourth win of 2021, marking his best return in a campaign, though Hamilton, who took the fastest lap, finished second and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas fought off Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull car to clinch a podium place.
Further back, Williams' George Russell had his race cut short by a power unit issue, while Pierre Gasly crashed out following a collision with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SPIELBERG
Hamilton is hoping for more support from his team, stating: "If we're not going to develop and improve our car for the rest of the year, this is the result you're going to see, because, as I said, they've [Red Bull] really eked out performance in these last few races, wherever it's been, whether it's been in France with the engine or the new wing, whichever it is."
While Mercedes will look to improve, Red Bull have history firmly in their sights.
Verstappen comes into this contest having become the driver to have won most races at the Red Bull Ring (three), though Hamilton and Bottas are the drivers to have taken the most pole positions (three for each).
Indeed, Verstappen has achieved five podiums and collected 113 points at Spielberg, more than any other circuit in his F1 career, and he is aiming to take more than one pole position at the same circuit for the first time after qualifying in top spot last week.
His Red Bull team-mate Perez is also just one win away from surpassing Pedro Rodriguez as the Mexican driver to have won the most races in F1 (three).
Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, will be looking to mark his 34th birthday on Saturday with a good run in qualifying. The four-time world champion is the third-highest driver in the record books in terms of race victories (53) and fourth for pole positions (57).
However, his last time on pole was at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix; that run of 29 races is his second-worst streak to date without starting at the front of the grid, following a 31-race stretch between 2014 and 2015.
TOP FIVE OPTA STATS
Spielberg short of twists and turns – With only 10 turns, seven to the right and three to the left, the Red Bull Ring has the fewest amount of corners of any track currently on the F1 calendar.
Mercedes' miserable run – Mercedes (79) are looking to equal Ferrari (80) as the team with the most one-twos in F1 qualifying, but the German constructor is suffering its worst run without a race win in the hybrid era, with Red Bull triumphing in the last four events.
Bottas far from finished – Should he claim pole, Bottas would equal Kimi Raikkonen as the second Finnish driver to have taken the most pole positions in F1 (18), after Mika Hakkinen (26). He has taken three pole positions at this race in the past, more than any other grand prix in his career (three: 2017, 2018 and 2020).
Leclerc's poor conversion rate – Ferrari's Leclerc has recorded only two wins out of the nine pole positions in his F1 career (22.2 per cent). If he takes pole this time around, but then fails to win, only Rene Arnoux (11.1 per cent, two of 18 pole positions) and David Coulthard (16.7 per cent, two of 12 poles) will have lowest ratio of victories from pole.
Hamilton daunted by his hundred? – With 100 pole positions in his F1 career, Hamilton is two shy of his 100th race victory. However, the Brit is one grand prix away from matching his worst run without winning in a single season since 2014.
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 156
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 138
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 96
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 86
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 74
1. Red Bull – 252
2. Mercedes – 212
3. McLaren – 120
4. Ferrari – 108
5. AlphaTauri – 46