• AFP-JIJI

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Max Verstappen will try to beat Lewis Hamilton in one of the defending champion’s favorite backyards this weekend to realize his own American dream and consolidate his lead in the Formula One drivers’ world championship.

Having finished fourth, third and second at the Circuit of the Americas, the Dutchman is aiming to claim a maiden Texas triumph and add to his six-point advantage in the standings with six races to go.

“We have always been competitive in the U.S. and have got close to some good results — so it’s about converting that into a win now,” he said. “We go to every track knowing we can fight for a podium at least, but also a win — and that is different to past years.

“We are focused on doing the best we can and always trying to win and it will be no different in Austin. It’ll be another close battle, and I am looking forward to it.”

Verstappen and his Red Bull team know, however, that Mercedes has enjoyed a dominant run of results in Texas since the inaugural race in 2012, when Hamilton recorded the first of his five wins. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas won the last race at the circuit, in 2019. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won in 2013 and Kimi Raikkonen won 2018.

That history, plus the way Mercedes bounced back in the last two races in Russia and Turkey, with one win apiece for Hamilton and Bottas, suggests the Honda-powered Red Bull team will have its work cut out this weekend.

“It was encouraging to see our momentum continue last time out in Turkey,” Mercedes’ team chief Toto Wolff said.

“We haven’t scored back-to-back race wins in a little while, so naturally spirits have been high in the factories.

“It was a dominant performance from Valtteri in tricky conditions, taking his first win of the season — a faultless drive. He was in control from the start and it’s a great boost to him and the team.”

Mercedes’ recent return to form has been, in part, due to improved power and pace, although Hamilton’s grid penalty for taking a new engine in Turkey restricted him to a fifth-place finish.

“For Lewis, the absolute view of Turkey is that he lost one point more than Max did in the previous race in Russia with a similar engine change — which we can live with,” said Wolff, adding that he expects more dramatic twists and turns before this year’s compelling title race is finished.

As Wolff voiced his own upbeat views, Red Bull boss Christian Horner sought to raise the stakes and add pressure on his Austrian counterpart.

“Toto’s done a tremendous job operating that team and maintaining their performance, but he’s never experienced anything other than winning,” said Horner.

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