Max Verstappen expects ‘tougher’ Lewis Hamilton fight ahead of Austrian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen dominated the stage during the Styrian Grand Prix, as he finished 35 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton at the Red Bull Ring, however, the Red Bull driver expects a ‘tougher’ challenge this Sunday at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen extended his lead in the driver standings to 18 points over the seven-time world champion with victory last time out.

Red Bull have now won the last four races on the bounce, with Sergio Perez taking a maiden win in Baku, and lead the team standings by 40 points over reigning champions Mercedes.

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It’s a stark difference from the past seven years, where Mercedes have dominated the championship, winning double titles every year with Hamilton clinching six of seven and Nico Rosberg the other.

Yet, despite Red Bull’s strong position, the Dutchman felt nothing was certain heading into round nine.

“I expect it to be a tougher fight. There are no guarantees in this sport and we have to keep improving,” he said on Thursday, ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

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“Of course it’s just nice in general to see a lot of fans back; I think everyone missed that a lot. It just creates an atmosphere that we’re all looking forward to this weekend.”

He added: “That weekend was very enjoyable but it’s not a guarantee that it will happen again, you know? We have to make sure that now with the softer compounds we again have a good car with a good balance and of course, people learn from their mistakes last week.”

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Verstappen earned himself a slapped wrist from the FIA after the race last weekend as he chose to do a burnout at the finish line.

Even though he maintained he did it safely, the Red Bull driver admitted he wouldn’t do it again to avoid a potential penalty from the FIA.

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“I’ll try and do a donut next time,” he joked. “OK, fine I won’t do it again, but at the time I thought it was really fun and safe but I understand they don’t want to see this happening again, which is fine for me,” he said.

Hamilton was clear to state Mercedes are still in the “fight” for the title this season but admitted Red Bull have a clear advantage this season.

“They’ve done a great job in these last four races,” admitted Hamilton, in the press conference on Thursday.

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