Max Verstappen has insisted he can beat Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight for the Formula One world championship this season. The Red Bull driver was confident that should his team provide a car able to match Mercedes he is in no fear of taking the fight to the world champion.
Hamilton has six titles already and is attempting to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven his season but when Verstappen was asked whether he felt he could end the 35-year-old’s reign, his reply was immediate. “Yes,” he said unequivocally. He was respectful of Hamilton’s achievements but refused to be intimidated.
“Lewis is very good, he is absolutely one of the best but he is not God,” he said. “Maybe God is with him,” he added with a smile. Hamilton has won five of the last six championships but the Dutch driver was clearly confident in his own abilities. He maintained that with testing for the new season set to begin in Barcelona in two weeks, he was intent on ensuring he was as sharp as possible for the season opener in Melbourne on 15 March.
“I feel good and I feel ready for it,” he said. “That is most important, I don’t really think about what my advantages over Lewis might be, I just focus on myself, I trust in myself.”
Verstappen was emphatic he would be in the title fight as long as Red Bull can deliver a car within touching distance of Mercedes and Ferrari. Last year Red Bull could not quite match either of their main rivals for pace across the season, although they did enjoy an advantage at certain meetings that suited their engine and chassis.
Verstappen also turned in some superb drives. He won three races and finished third in the championship behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, beating the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. His team’s Honda power unit improved steadily as the year progressed and before the new season he was confident there was more to come and that his team was operationally ready to challenge.
“If we start within two-tenths we can really apply the pressure,” he said. “I am looking forward to it, I know when everything is put together as a team, as we were last season under pressure situations, we were really excelling. I am looking forward to when we get that fight and that it will be really close but that we can be better.”
The team principal, Christian Horner was also optimistic that Red Bull were starting the season stronger than they had for some time.
“Honda did such a great job last year they brought more performance and power and are getting very, very good,” he said. “They are getting very close now to Mercedes. Its up to us to come up with the right chassis. Going into this year we feel better prepared and earlier than we have certainly for the last five years.”
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