Racing

Lewis Hamilton’s good, but he’s not God: Max Verstappen

Red Bull star says the Briton could be vulnerable under sustained pressure

Max Verstappen believes he can thwart Englishman Lewis Hamilton's bid for a seventh Formula One title this season, if Red Bull give him the tools to do the job.

The 22-year-old Dutch driver won three races last year, finishing third overall in the driver's standings.

He is not about to be awed by anyone's reputation - even if that person is possibly the greatest driver of all time.

"It's very car-dependent, of course, in Formula One," Verstappen said at a Red Bull team media event yesterday.

"Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there, but he's not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God."

Hamilton, 35, is chasing several records this season - including Michael Schumacher's 91 race wins and seven titles - and has won five of the last six championships with a dominant Mercedes outfit.

"We really want to mount a challenge to especially Mercedes and we can do that," said Verstappen, who last December signed a contract extension till the end of 2023.

He also has a new English trainer and physio for this year.

Verstappen said the new contract had taken away the hassle of being asked about his future all the time, removing another potential distraction.

He added that Hamilton could be vulnerable if put under sustained pressure, with the Briton having already singled out Verstappen last year as someone he gave more space to because of his reputation for aggression.

"I'm very much looking forward to it, everybody's fired up and everybody's very motivated," said the Dutchman.

"Coming off last year, at the end, we were very competitive."

LESSONS LEARNT

Team boss Christian Horner said Red Bull, who use Honda engines, would be helped by stable regulations and were looking to apply the lessons learnt from last year to take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari.

The new car will have its first track shakedown behind closed doors at Silverstone on Feb 12, with Verstappen and teammate Alexander Albon starting pre-season testing in Barcelona on Feb 19.

"Honda did such a great job, each introduction of an engine last year brought more performance and more power. It feels we're getting very, very close now to Mercedes," said Horner, whose team were third in the constructor's championship last year.

"That therefore puts the emphasis on the chassis side of the team...

"Going into this year, we feel better prepared, earlier, than we have certainly in the last five years." - REUTERS

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