Rivalry between F1 stars Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen captures fans’ attention at US Grand Prix

Brook Mestre, a lawyer from Dallas, didn’t grow up as a racing fan. In fact, he married into the Formula One madness that has drawn hundreds of thousands of fans to Circuit of the Americas this weekend. Mestre’s wife, Lauren, is the true F1 aficionado in her family, having “fallen in love” with the sport as a child growing up in Birmingham, Ala., a city in the hearth area of NASCAR.





Her father followed the famed Lotus racing team that rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s with its blend of on-track success and innovative design. Lauren Mestre even attended Silverstone Circuit in England with her father as a 9-year-old, an experience that cemented a lifelong passion for the sport.



“We were different growing up, I guess,” she said outside of COTA on Saturday. “My dad got me into it and, I don’t know, I just loved it. ”hat love has spread throughout her family, which joined Lauren Mestre for the 3-hour drive from Dallas to COTA. While Lauren admires Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, her husband said that fiery Australian Daniel Ricciardo has become his favorite, especially with an aggressive racing manner that has drawn comparisons to a certain animal that drew viral fame a decade ago for its rowdy ways. “We all had to pick different ones, to be honest,” Brook Mestre said with a grin while eyeing his wife. “Why did I pick Ricciardo? He’s Australian, and he’s the ‘Honey Badger.’ He’s got some attitude. ”Of course, no group of fans entering the circuit comes without at least someone cheering on five-time defending champion Lewis Hamilton and another rooting for fierce rival Max Verstappen. In the Mestres’ case, 3-year-old son Walker donned a tiny Hamilton shirt while his older brother, 5-year-old Winston, rocked some Verstappen gear.



And Winston didn’t shy away from some jibes directed at his less-talkative brother. “I like Max because he drives fast,” Winston said. “And he wins a lot.” There’s no doubt about that. Verstappen, a 24-year-old driver from the Netherlands, has been the best driver in F1 this season with seven wins and 12 podium appearances in 16 races. Entering Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at COTA, Verstappen leads F1’s driver standings with 262.5 points, just six points ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen’s success has come at the expense of Hamilton, F1’s longtime king who has won seven titles, including six in the past seven years. Anytime a usurper tries to claim the throne in F1, tensions mount between the drivers, teams and fanbases — no matter how young, as evident by the Mestre brothers. Hamilton and Verstappen have both shrugged off the notion of bad blood between F1’s two alpha drivers even though they’ve had several on-track incidents this year. However, the friction rose to a boil on the piping-hot surface at COTA in Friday’s second practice session. The two drivers ended up side by side through the final corner and into turn one, a taut close encounter not usually seen in a practice run. “Ha, stupid idiot,” snapped Verstappen on the broadcast of the race in COTA’s media center.



Hamilton’s team reacted quickly to calm the Englishman’s temper and diffuse the tension. “Ignore it; don’t worry about it,” came the call from Hamilton’s radio crew. After the race, Verstappen downplayed the moment and said he’s focused solely on Sunday. “I don’t know, we were all lining up to go for our laps, and I don’t really understand what happened there,” he said. Bottas, Lauren Mestre’s preferred racer who currently ranks No. 3 in the standings behind Hamilton and Verstappen, says the rivalry may excite the F1 fans but it’s unlikely to extend beyond the track. “Lewis and Max, they’re both adults, so they also know that that is the name of the game,” he told reporters. “And I don’t think it’s anything personal. That’s my view.
“If you’re on the podium after a race that you’ve been wheel-to-wheel with someone, you still have adrenaline and you might feel tension, but that’s completely normal in the sport. So, for me, it’s all normal.”


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