Ferrari duo: Bottas in title race, Verstappen not

Jon Wilde
Charles Leclerc Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel say only Valtteri Bottas can deny Lewis Hamilton the World Championship

Only one man can stop Lewis Hamilton from claiming a seventh World Championship this year, according to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc – and it’s not Max Verstappen.

Both of Ferrari’s drivers believe Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, is the solitary threat to the Englishman’s prospects of equalling Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven world titles by the end of 2020.

After three rounds of a season much delayed by the global health pandemic, and with an as-yet-undetermined number of races to go, Hamilton leads Bottas by five points in the Drivers’ World Championship.

Verstappen had high hopes of challenging before the campaign got under way but the Red Bull driver already trails Bottas by 25 points, having had to retire from the opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Neither Vettel nor Leclerc is remotely in the mix at this stage with Ferrari lacking pace, and both of the Italian giants’ racers think the chase for the crown is purely a Mercedes in-house battle.

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Asked after the Hungarian Grand Prix whether he could see a scenario whereby Hamilton might not be World Champion at the end of the year, Vettel told Reuters: “I think (only) if Valtteri wins the championship.”

Leclerc added: “I think Lewis is obviously the main contender. The only one that could probably stop him doing that is Valtteri.”

Both Vettel and Leclerc were lapped by Hamilton at the Hungaroring and while neither of them rates Verstappen’s chances of launching a title bid, the World Champion himself expects Red Bull to come back strongly from their early disappointments this term.

Hamilton said: “I think the Red Bulls have been doing a great job and I’m sure at some stage they’re going to make some improvements as we get into the season.”

“I’m hopeful we will still find some challenges up ahead. Would I like more of a battle from the others? Absolutely.”

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