Lewis Hamilton admits Max Verstappen fear as Brit serves reality check

Mercedes: What’s gone wrong at the F1 and can they recover?

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Lewis Hamilton has claimed it’s “too early to say” if Max Verstappen will go onto dominate F1 after securing his second world title. But, the Mercedes star admitted that Verstappen could be in control if Red Bull continued to win next season.

The Briton also suggested Ferrari would likely be the first team to beat Red Bull after Charles Leclerc came close to challenging during some stages this year. Hamilton was asked whether he believed F1 was at the beginning of a Verstappen era during Sunday’s post-race press conference.

The Mercedes driver was also asked if there were any opportunities to close the gap next season. He responded: “It is too early to say. If we get into next year and they’re dominating again, then yes, but the Ferraris have been quicker than them throughout qualifying.

“I think they’ve every single lap probably had better performance on the majority of a lot of the season. Now, all they need to do is pick up their race pace, and they’ll be right with them. I think we’ve got a much, much bigger step and steeper hill to climb, but hopefully not impossible.”

Hamilton was the driver to beat between 2014 and 2020 with six world titles as Mercedes wrapped up seven Constructors’ Championships. However, Red Bull ended that run by securing the drivers’ title in controversial circumstances last season.

The team has since gone on to win another drivers’ title and topped the teams’ standings for the first time since 2013. It comes as the Silver Arrows have struggled to match the pace of the frontrunners throughout the campaign.

The team are yet to win a Grand Prix this season with Hamilton’s record of standing on the top-step at least once in every season under severe threat. Leclerc enjoyed an early championship lead over Verstappen with the Monegasque over 40 points ahead after the first three races.

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However, his title challenge faltered after a series of strategic mistakes and driver errors ended any chances of challenging for the crown. Responding to the same question, Leclerc claimed he was “confident” Ferrari would take the fight to Red Bull in 2023.

He added: “Well, I hope not. I will do everything for it to not happen and we are working as a team for it to not happen obviously.

“I think it is very clear for us where we need to improve. Over one lap, we are really strong and I think we are on the same level as Red Bull; over the course of a race, then we are struggling with tyres. So we are putting our effort into that and I hope that we’ll see the result as soon as next year.”

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