Max Verstappen title warning sent to Lewis Hamilton as F1 champion’s weakness identified
Max Verstappen is quicker than his rivals and can make the most of Lewis Hamilton going virtually uncontested over the past three years. That’s the verdict of Red Bull chief Helmut Marko, who is hopeful the new RB16 can help the Dutchman take the title fight to Mercedes.
Verstappen will get his 2020 campaign underway in Australia off the back of an impressive series of performances in pre-season testing.
The Dutchman has shut down fears over the RB16 being too skittish and is confident the new Honda engine can deliver when it’s called upon.
Other than Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen may be the best bet to wrestle the World Drivers’ Championship from the Brit’s grasp.
Marko, who heads up Red Bull’s driver development programme, has now offered his backing to the 22-year-old, who finished third in last year’s standings.
“There is a lot of pressure on Lewis and Max in particular,” Marko told Austrian outlet Kronen Zeitung. “[Hamilton] is naturally fast and has so much momentum. He knows exactly how to win a world championship.
“Verstappen is probably the fastest of the best three drivers on a single lap, and now he also has the necessary routine and maturity.
“We hope that the package we hope to offer him will make him a serious opponent.”
Hamilton’s confidence ahead of the new F1 season will have been boosted by a generally strong showing in testing, where Ferrari floundered.
Marko has, though, identified what he perceives to be a weakness for the 35-year-old, who he believes may have lost his competitive edge.
Asked to pick out a weak point for Hamilton, Marko said: “That, as stupid as it sounds, he has driven more or less without competition in recent years.”
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Marko’s stance mirrors that of Hamilton’s former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who has talked up Verstappen and Leclerc’s abilities.
“I have very high hopes it is going to be incredibly exciting, last year we saw different winners,” Rosberg said.
“We saw Red Bull win, Ferrari win, I really believe there is a big possibility that continues into this season.
“If they step it up then that would be so awesome if the three teams went head-to-head. That would give us a spectacular Formula 1 season and that is all I wish for.
“This could be the year of the handover but it depends on the car, the challenge Verstappen, Leclerc, I wouldn’t count Valtteri Bottas out either, Sebastian Vettel will be in there.
“There are many drivers who if they have the right car they could be world champions and the handover could certainly happen from one generation to the next.”
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