Max Verstappen conspiracy theory suggested as Hulkenberg rumours emerge – F1 news round-up

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen with the number '1' board. Belgium July 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen with the number '1' board. Belgium July 2023

It’s the second day of the summer break, but there’s still plenty of F1 news to digest before the teams enter their shutdown…

It’s not quite a full summer shutdown just yet, particularly with the world of F1 still analysing the events of the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend.

Without further ado, let’s get stuck in and look back over the day that was in Formula 1!

Max Verstappen suggestion ‘one for the conspiracy theorists’

With Max Verstappen storming through to win the Belgian Grand Prix from his sixth-place grid slot, the ease with which he caught and passed early leader Sergio Perez in the same machinery caught the eye of Martin Brundle.

The Sky F1 pundit said the difference in speed between the pair is fuel for any conspiracy theorists watching the sport, due to the sheer confidence and ability Verstappen has in comparison to his teammate.

“When Max caught Sergio it was as if he was in a different car (that one is for the conspiracy theorists to seize on) because he was able to take tighter lines and still get better exit traction,” he said.

“He’s found a way to carry speed while continuing to babysit the Pirellis. It’s a touch, feel, and finesse that’s very difficult to learn and achieve in my experience.”

Read more: Martin Brundle’s Spa analysis opens door for Max Verstappen ‘conspiracy theorists’

Nico Hulkenberg spotted going into Red Bull’s hospitality

With Perez’s future at Red Bull in the spotlight due to his mostly poor 2023 season, the Mexican won’t be pleased to hear that his former teammate Nico Hulkenberg was spotted entering the Red Bull hospitality over the weekend.

Worse, it comes just as the German driver was singled out for praise by Helmut Marko, when the Austrian was asked about Hulkenberg’s single-lap pace skill against Perez’s tyre-whisperer reputation.

“That’s the right thought,” he told “The two would be the perfect qualifying and race combination.”

Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Sky F1’s Natalie Pinkham questioned Hulkenberg’s trip to Red Bull: “It interests me that Nico Hulkenberg just walked past us to go into Red Bull. What’s going on there?”

But might there be some validity to the suggestion of joining Red Bull? Dutch journalist Erik van Haren doesn’t believe so…

Read more: Rumours sparked as Nico Hulkenberg seen visiting Red Bull hospitality

Lewis Hamilton on how Max Verstappen’s year could be made more difficult

While Verstappen is romping away to his third consecutive World Championship, the last driver he had as a proper rival believes Verstappen wouldn’t have such an easy time of things if he was given the keys to the second Red Bull.

While Hamilton’s comments shouldn’t be viewed as an attempt to bend the ear of Red Bull bosses, despite his contract with Mercedes coming to a close, his theory is that Verstappen would have a proper competition with him in the second car.

“Do I want to be as fast as them? Of course. Would I like to have a car that’s as fast as them? Of course,” Hamilton told media after the Belgian GP.

“If I was in Sergio’s car, Max would not be having the same time he’s having now.”

Read more: Lewis Hamilton on what would happen to Verstappen ‘if I was in Perez’s car’

Red Bull’s ‘Jason Statham’ character to deal with Max Verstappen

With Verstappen getting into a fiery radio exchange with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase during the Belgian Grand Prix, Christian Horner was asked about the relationship between the pair after the race.

There aren’t many people who can handle Verstappen when he gets into a strop, but Lambiase is exactly that character, according to Horner.

“I mean GP and Max have been together since the first race that Max stepped into the car,” he said.

“Max is a demanding customer. And you got to be a strong character to deal with that.

“GP, he’s our Jason Statham equivalent, they certainly look alike.

“He deals with him firmly but fairly. There’s a great respect between the two of them and that comes out of a mutual trust that you must have between an engineer and the only problem is that conversation between the two of them has 200 million people listening.

“There’s a great bond between the two of them and a great trust between the two.”

Read more: Red Bull have ‘Jason Statham equivalent’ to deal with ‘demanding’ Max Verstappen recommends

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Mercedes junior to get FP1 outing, and Vandoorne ready for F1 test comeback

Other driver-related news today was the first confirmed driver replacement for a practice session later in the season.

All 10 teams are required to give over two FP1 sessions to a rookie driver (or two) during a season, and Mercedes have confirmed junior driver Frederik Vesti will get a turn in place of George Russell at the Mexico City GP.

Elsewhere, a Pirelli tyre test is being carried out at Spa-Francorchamps this week, with Aston Martin and McLaren staying on to carry out the duties for the tyre manufacturer.

Former McLaren man Stoffel Vandoorne will take over the Aston Martin AMR23 for Wednesday’s track time, and he has a laptime target to beat as Lance Stroll set the pace on Tuesday…

Read more: Stoffel Vandoorne back in F1 action with Aston Martin after three years sidelined