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Former F1 driver Damon Hill reckons there are some games being played between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on the team radio this season, adding he was surprised to hear the seven-time world champion voicing concerns during the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Verstappen were once again embroiled in a tense battle at the Circuit of the Americas as the Briton initially swept into the lead at Turn 1.
But Red Bull pulled off a spectacular undercut during the first round of pit stops, catching Mercedes napping early on in the race.
Hamilton had to play catch up, and even on fresher tyres towards the end of the race, was unable to catch the Red Bull, voicing his concerns on the Mercedes team radio.
“It was a terrific race, because it was so finely-balanced all the way through,” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.
“And there’s a little bit of gamesmanship [with] some of those radio calls. I was surprised that Lewis was on the radio saying, ‘I can’t keep up the pace’, as he does sometimes.
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“You think, ‘Why are you giving the game away?’ Then Max was saying, ‘I can see him sliding around’, and then pitted and completely outfoxed Mercedes.
“[Verstappen] got track position back from his pole position that he lost in effect, and then controlled a very, very tight race. It was thrilling from beginning to end.”
Verstappen and Hamilton started alongside each other in Texas after the Dutchman set a blistering time in qualifying to grab pole position.
But Hill added how impressed he was by the duo, who have clashed before on the opening lap of a race this season.
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“But the nail-biter was whether or not Lewis would get within the one second and get his DRS open. He seemed to get close enough, and then he couldn’t. He obviously couldn’t get close enough because he didn’t open his DRS.
“So he never got a shot at that passing move, and ran out of laps before we ran out of tyres. But the tension I think was great, all the way through.
“The first lap of that [race] was right up there with all the top first laps we’ve ever seen,” the 1996 world champion said.
“The other thing was the fans in the crowd seemed to be relating to it and getting in. Everyone seemed to be clued in as to the importance of the strategy and what the guys were really doing in the cars.
“So the tension was right the way through.”
Verstappen now holds a 12 point lead heading to Mexico in a fortnight’s time, with the 24-year-old vying for a maiden World Championship title, if he can beat the seven-time world champion with just five races remaining of the 2021 F1 season.
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