Verstappen would welcome renewed Hamilton title fight
By Ian Parkes
Monday 12th June, 2023 - 1:25am
Max Verstappen may be comprehensively dominating F1 at present but even the Red Bull driver would welcome a renewed title rivalry with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
The two drivers delivered one of the most captivating seasons in F1 history in 2021 that went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi, with the championship decided by a contentious decision from then FIA race director Michael Masi which cost Hamilton a record eighth title and resulted in Verstappen winning his first.
Since then, following the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations at the start of last year, Verstappen and Red Bull become all-conquering, winning 24 of 29 grands prix in this era, and 16 of the last 17, in particular.
In Spain at the weekend, Mercedes offered a glimpse of a potential fightback as Hamilton and team-mate George Russell finished second and third, albeit with the seven-time F1 champion 24 seconds adrift of Verstappen.
At least with the new upgrades on the car, it was a step in the right direction, leading Hamilton to declare he is looking forward to again racing against Verstappen in the future.
As to whether the feeling is mutual, particularly given the acrimony between the duo in 2021, and with Russell potentially in the mix too, Verstappen said: “Yeah, it’s great for the sport in general if you have more teams fighting up front.
“That’s what they want to achieve, so honestly, that would be amazing, to have more drivers really up there.
“Hopefully throughout the year it will get closer and maybe next year there are more teams really up there.”
At this stage, as Verstappen marches towards a third consecutive drivers’ championship, he has no concerns about the pace shown by Mercedes during the Spanish GP.
“They had a very strong race, to be honest,” assessed Verstappen.
“I think they are improving but from our side, it’s not about being worried. We just have to focus on ourselves, trying to keep on improving the car.
“At the moment it all looks great, it’s a good period. I’m happy in the car, and the last few race weekends have definitely been a lot more positive for me.
“This (Spain) was one weekend where it went really well. But we know that maybe at some other tracks it won’t be like this. There are a lot of races to come where we again have to perform really well to try and win.”
Insisting he and Red Bull “can’t stand still in this world”, he added: “We have to keep on working and trying to find more performance.
“We just keep trying to find things on the car, trying to learn – like understanding why the hard (tyre) wasn’t working with the car.
“We’ll see what happens in the coming races. I don’t know if there are going to be tracks that are better or worse. We’ll find out.”