Verstappen expects Hamilton title challenge 'if he has the car to do it'

By Sports Desk February 04, 2023

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen expects Lewis Hamilton to challenge him for the title next year "if he has the car to do it".

Hamilton, a seven-time drivers' championship winner, was blighted by car issues with Mercedes last season as he failed to win a race for the first time in his career.

Red Bull star Verstappen tallied a record-breaking 15 wins to finish 146 points ahead of closest rival Charles Leclerc in a dominant title-winning 2022 campaign.

But the Dutchman does not envisage a third straight F1 crown coming with such relative ease in 2023.

"He's been one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport, so for sure if he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again," Verstappen told Sky Sports of Hamilton.

He added: "But that's the same for George [Russell], it's the same for Charles, it's the same for Lando [Norris] – if you give them the car that's capable of winning the championship, they can.

"But it's also about when you have the car then the pressure comes you cannot afford big mistakes.

"That's a bit of a different pressure you have but I'm confident once these guys get onto a roll like that it is all possible, they all have talent to do so."

Red Bull cruised to the constructors' championship last year, winning the title for the first time since 2013.

However, the team have been hit with wind tunnel testing restrictions and CFD limitations after they were judged to have breached financial regulations.

The full impact of those punishments is unclear but a reduction in time allowed in the wind tunnel could lead Red Bull to fall behind their rivals in aerodynamic developments.

"You always try to go for it, but I don't know if we're going to be good enough," Verstappen added.

"Of course as a team we believe we are, we are very motivated, we come off the back of a very strong year and we are working flat out to try and achieve that."

Ford will return to F1 this year for the first time since 2004 and partner with Red Bull from 2026.

Verstappen cannot wait for the partnership after seeing success in a collaboration with Honda, having also witnessed first-hand the struggles with the Renault combination.

"I signed twice without actually fully knowing what was coming in terms of engines, and people said maybe that's a crazy thing to do," he continued.

"I believed in the project and I believed that everyone involved would make the right decisions for the team.

"The first one they made going with Honda, I think that worked out really well and now for the future this is the next step – Ford in 2026 – and I believe in it.

"If we all believe in it, I'm sure we can create something really cool."

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  • Second morning of F1 testing in Bahrain cut short due to loose drain cover Second morning of F1 testing in Bahrain cut short due to loose drain cover

    Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

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    Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

    Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

    Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

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  • Second morning of testing in Bahrain cancelled due to loose drain cover Second morning of testing in Bahrain cancelled due to loose drain cover

    Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

    Circuit officials attempted to repair the track, but after a delay of nearly 40 minutes, it was announced that the running would not resume.

    The one-hour lunch break, was brought forward by an hour. The afternoon session will now run for five hours, instead of four, starting one hour earlier than planned at 2pm local time (11am GMT).

    Ferrari said the impact caused damage to the floor of Leclerc’s Ferrari, which has since been replaced.

    It is unclear at this stage how extensive the damage was to Hamilton’s Mercedes.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

    Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

    Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

    Hamilton, competing in his final season for Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari, is scheduled to be behind the wheel of his new machine all day. He was sixth when the red flag was deployed.

    Max Verstappen finished fastest on Wednesday. The test concludes on Friday ahead of next Saturday’s first round of the season, also in the Gulf kingdom.

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