Even if Max Verstappen bags pole position at the forthcoming Russian GP, it would mean he’d begin from fourth position on the grid. If he (hypothetically speaking) manages to put his car somehow on tenth in qualifying, assuming his next Saturday is a horrid one, he’ll begin from thirteenth position on the grid.
Not good news.
Monza might be over, but the horrific crash that literally saw the Dutch driver landing on top of his archrival, Lewis Hamilton, earned the Red Bull driver a three-place grid penalty.
Of his eleven pole positions so far in Formula 1, Max Verstappen has never bagged a pole in Russia. Might be a great time to improve the record, though it won’t help much, since the young Dutch driver will be amid considerable pressure as the other two fastest cars on the grid (Mercedes) shall be raring to go.
Here’s another fact.
Of his 52 career podiums, an incredible achievement for a driver who’s yet to turn 24, only one has transpired in the land of Vladimir Putin, the FSB, and the famed Iron Curtain.
But this is Formula 1, where nothing is concealed behind the curtain. The drama is in front of the crowd and millions who stay intrepidly fixated to the TV set.
And while he’d like to enforce a win by sheer will, Max Verstappen would know clearly that Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who’s thus far been patient and sportsmanlike throughout the ups and downs of the duo’s rivalry, would exert that very iron-fisted dominance with which the Black Arrows have ruled the turbo-hybrid era of the sport.
Though, what must be said with absolute clarity is that Max Verstappen won’t be a happy man in Russia.
That’s not to say that he can’t win. Anything is possible in Formula 1 with the classic rule - don’t rule out anything.
But plausibility suggests, the impending Grand Prix is going to be a test of nerves and patience for one of F1’s fastest albeit most fiercest drivers. He walked past Lewis Hamilton at the chicane after the two came to blow in an accident that was as bone chilling as it was dramatic.
But that there was just no empathy at all, even if manufactured for that very instant, to ask about Hamilton’s well-being didn’t earn Max Verstappen any fans.
Not from Mercedes, obviously.
And one reckons, not from any other side in the paddock.
World champions don’t conduct themselves like that. Nor do those who are possibly on the path to glory.
The three-place grid penalty, which the Red Bull fans would surely feel is a bit too much considering Hamilton, at Silverstone, got just a 10-seconder when he led to a crash at Copse sending Verstappen out crashing, would seem unfair.
To his defence, the first words that Verstappen muttered upon reaching the garage was, “He didn’t leave me any space.”
But it ought to be asked, Max, did you - when you landed on top of the seven-time world champion, who crashed out along with you?
Frankly, what does make the Verstappen and Hamilton cock-up at Monza messy is that they both crashed out in unexpected fashion.
The result, and therefore, Max’s own destiny in the next race, would surely have looked more promising than it does now, if say they’d have emerged unscathed at that challenging chicane.
But that they didn’t and ended up crashing, with stewards having already passed the judgment on Max suggests guilty has been charged.
Now’s the time for Hamilton to play the executioner, since the judge and the jury both have passed their verdict on the pretender to the throne.
Moreover, what is bound to make the next Grand Prix even more exciting is that Hamilton, who missed out scoring points majorly in the previous Grand Prix, would want to mount a massive comeback.
Should that happen, it would turn the tables on the current world championship, yet again.
Bringing it back to how it was before F1 plunged into the summer break.
That’s also where one should not rule out Verstappen completely. Should he somehow manage to eke out a race-win, or if not, a valiant second, the certainty of which only a soothsayer can predict, it’ll ensure that Hamilton continues to be under pressure.
As they say, it’s not over until it’s over. Would you, for instance, rule out Bottas at Sochi? It would be a fool's errand to undermine a driver who won here in 2020 and knows the circuit just as well as anyone else, perhaps even better.
Frankly, where this world championship stands at this point in time, it’s all coming to the knife’s edge. It's not going to be over, until it's over.