Can Verstappen follow Rosberg's example?

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Max Verstappen has put forward his credentials to win his maiden Drivers' Championship after winning two of the opening five races of the 2021 campaign.

The 23-year-old has challenged Lewis Hamilton's dominance, but will need to be flawless throughout the rest of the term to topple the Brit.

The Red Bull driver has displayed the consistency required to make a push for the crown and is backed in the F1 betting odds at 6/5 to secure his maiden title win. However, he is not the first driver to make an initial push at Hamilton, only to be crushed by the Brit in his run to claim four-straight titles.

Sebastian Vettel made bright starts to the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, but his form tailed off during the middle stretches of those respective seasons. It allowed Hamilton to take command of the Drivers' Championship, and he had the clinical edge to see out the triumphs whereas the German faded drastically.

The only success story for a driver chasing Hamilton since 2014 was his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. In that season, the German made an outstanding start to the term to put the Brit under pressure from the off by winning the opening four races. He did suffer a decline during the middle stretch of the season to open the door to his team-mate.

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Unlike Vettel, Rosberg had a second wind and reeled off another vital stretch of victories winning four out of five to close in on the crown. Although he failed to record another win in the remaining four races of the season. Rosberg finished second on all four occasions, which was enough to win the title, denying Hamilton despite a desperate late surge.

The story of Rosberg's success is a lesson to Verstappen and reinforces the issue that he cannot afford any mistakes between no and the end of the season. Hamilton is shark-like in his approach and if he smells blood in the water he will capitalise, such is his brilliance on the track.

One of the major issues that has prevented the Dutchman from competing for the title in the past has been reliability with his Red Bull vehicle. In 17 races in the 2020 campaign, Verstappen was forced to retire in five of the contests, which halted any notion of a challenge for the crown. He endured two retirements in the 2019 season, and although he was a long way off Hamilton's pace, the Dutchman would have had a strong claim to finish second in place of Valtteri Bottas.

It has been a case of so far so good for Verstappen and Red Bull in the 2021 campaign. Both team and driver have been flawless in their approach. The 23-year-old has been guilty of mistakes on the track in the past, which have played their part in his reliability issues. Now he is in prime position, Verstappen must display the same maturity and composure as Hamilton in order to match and surpass his rival.

The challenge ahead of Verstappen is huge, but if he wants to realise his dream of winning the Drivers' Championship, he must be perfect until the chequered flag comes down at Abu Dhabi.

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