F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Max Verstappen has sent a warning to Lewis Hamilton that he is yet to hit his peak performance level in the sport, and doesn’t expect to be at the top of his game until his “early thirties” as the 23-year-old hunts down his first world title.
The championship leader now has a 12 point lead over his Mercedes rival Hamilton heading to Austria, with a level playing field of three wins apiece between the duo.
It’s the first time Red Bull have led the way since 2013, after Mercedes continued to dominate the hybrid-era, with seven back-to-back constructor titles, alongside seven driver titles too, with Hamilton smashing record after record with the reigning world champions.
Yet, this season we’ve seen a swing in the standings, with Verstappen leading the way ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix.
Red Bull have extended their lead at the top of the Constructors’ Championship by 37 points.
And speaking to Formula.com, Verstappen warned competitors he’s still got a lot more to give.
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“Hopefully you will see that in my early thirties,” said Verstappen. “I’m only 23. I only expect myself to get better in the coming years, but there’s also no rush to that, these things happen naturally, you can’t force it.”
Verstappen and Hamilton have gone wheel-to-wheel race wins all season, with on and off-track squabbling between Red Bull and Mercedes.
Yet however close their battles are this season, Verstappen felt he hasn’t learned anything new from his rival, having raced alongside Hamilton since his debut in F1 in 2015.
“Not much which is a surprise to me this year from the years before, of course, you study your rivals but I also always look back at myself,” he continued.
“When you look at others, they, of course, have good qualities but for me, I’m not a guy who copies, I’m always listening and looking but at the end of the day you have to look at yourself and where you can improve and be better.
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“When you copy you can only be as good at it, so for me that doesn’t work”
Red Bull have been piling on the pressure all season, starting way back in Bahrain testing where Verstappen wiped the floor with his timings across the three days.
Arguably it’s the first time Mercedes have really felt the heat from a rival team since 2018, when Sebastian Vettel took the fight to Hamilton with Ferrari.
Since Monaco however, there has been a huge swing in the championship, with the Dutchman taking control of the standings thanks to a tough weekend for Mercedes.
Baku also lent itself nicely to Red Bull, and despite Verstappen suffering a tyre blowout, the team still walked away leading both the driver and the team standings with no points scored by their main rivals.
Hamilton and Mercedes looked to bounce back in France but, despite a vast improvement from the previous two races, a clever strategy call from Red Bull saw Verstappen extend his lead at the top of the standings to 12 points heading into two rounds at Austria.
Verstappen added: “Our pre-season testing was already pretty decent, of course, it can be track dependant or whatever, but I think so far on every track we’ve been very competitive, a lot better than the years before,”
“The team learned from what didn’t go well last year, and from Honda’s side, we’ve had some really nice improvements as well in the engine.
“When you bring these two things together, we can agree that it’s been pretty good so far.”
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