Reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen is having none of Lewis Hamilton’s pre-season comments as the duo prepare to do battle again in Bahrain. Their on-track rivalry has been on hold since December, when they fought it out for the world title in a breathtaking final-lap bonanza which saw the Dutchman come out on top.
Verstappen dealt Mercedes and Hamilton a crushing blow in Abu Dhabi when he snatched the world title away at the death. It certainly left a bitter taste in the Silver Arrows’ mouths, even though they sealed an eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship in the same race.
All streaks must eventually come to an end though, and many feel as though this could be the year. Throughout pre-season testing, both Hamilton and new team-mate George Russell have battled with understeer and porpoising issues.
Both drivers expressed concern which suggests that, unless a swift mechanical turnaround takes place, they may struggle to compete at the top to begin with. In fact, Hamilton predicted that Ferrari would take a one-two in Bahrain based off their pre-season performance.
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F1 hero Martin Brundle agrees with the 37-year-old Mercedes’ issues but disagrees with his Ferrari prediction, holding Red Bull as the ‘clear favourites’ before lights out. Indeed, Verstappen rounded off the final day of testing top of the pile in terms of lap times.
Verstappen continues to play down talk of Red Bull dominance, though, as he saw Mercedes flounder before ultimately coming on strong last season. “Of course, they have little issues,” he told the Evening Standard, “They don’t want to show anything. They for sure will be good.”
“I’m just out here to do a good job and try to improve myself even more every single year,” added Verstappen, “I don’t really feel like there is a target.
“For me, it doesn’t matter if you’re the hunter or the one hunted because you are so dependent on your car anyway. I know if I have a good car I can win again and that’s what I, of course, hope for.”