Lewis Hamilton declared ‘only driver that can come close’ to Max Verstappen

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on the podium in Mexico City.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen together on the podium.

Former F1 driver Christijan Albers believes Lewis Hamilton is the only driver who can hang with Max Verstappen across a Formula 1 season.

An epic clash of generations unfolded in 2021, as the young and hungry Max Verstappen took the fight to the dominant force Lewis Hamilton, who was chasing a record-breaking eighth World title.

Verstappen ultimately came out victorious, that sparking his rise to dominant status, the Dutchman now a three-time World Champion while Mercedes have not been able to put Hamilton in the title conversation since.

Christijan Albers: Lewis Hamilton only can challenge Max Verstappen

During F1 2023 Verstappen wiped the floor with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, scoring a record 19 grand prix wins to Perez’s two.

Such dominance naturally heightens the debate over which driver could challenge Verstappen in capable machinery, but for Albers, there is only one and that is Hamilton.

“For the neutral observer, I hope that Mercedes will come with a better car in 2024,” Albers wrote in his De Telegraaf column. “Because if you look purely at the qualities of the current drivers, I think Lewis Hamilton is the only one who can come close to Verstappen.

“I am mainly talking about the quality of being able to perform consistently and be very stable in lap times during a race. Just like Verstappen, Hamilton is someone who can manage his tyres wonderfully. Assessing certain situations, feeling the rubber; in that respect they are alone.”

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As the curtain came down on F1 2023 in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton cut a frustrated figure, knowing he had now gone two full seasons without a win with his mind already fully switched to F1 2024, in the hope that Mercedes will by then have the answers on how to return to the title scene.

And Albers can fully understand Hamilton’s frustration, claiming this winless streak will “eat at” him.

“Hamilton looked quite frustrated at the end of the season,” Albers observed. “I can imagine that too.

“Sure, he’s had years where he beat everyone, but has now gone two full seasons without a win. That’s going to eat at you.

“He wants more and more, but struggles with the fact that the Mercedes is not going faster. Then at the end of the year you are exhausted and tired. He hasn’t had that boost of a moment of furor that you need for a while.”

Hamilton did though re-affirm his commitment to the Mercedes recovery mission by signing a new contract running until the end of 2025.

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