After 15 grands prix, Hamilton and Verstappen are separated by a mere two points in the Mercedes driver’s favour as he chases a record-breaking eighth World title.
Verstappen, who won more races than his British rival but has also suffered more DNFs, is looking to end Mercedes’ seven year reign as Drivers’ and Constructors’ champions.
“Both are driving at an incredibly high level,” the Sky Germany pundit said as per Motorsport.com.
“I think Max Verstappen has taken an incredible step. He is driving much more intelligently. He still takes risks, but not like before.
“Lewis Hamilton sometimes makes a mistake under great pressure, but also handles the situation very well.
“They really are each other’s equals. You could also see how nervous Lewis was that Max managed to get such a good result in Sochi.”
Last time out in Russia, Hamilton had a golden opportunity to take a big points-lead over Verstappen, who was starting at the very back of the field due to a grid penalty.
Hamilton did his part, winning the race, but did so ahead of Verstappen who raced from P20 to P2.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 4, 2021
Schumacher added: “You could see during an interview with Toto Wolff after the race that he was worried because he hadn’t taken that into account.
“And it now looks like Mercedes will also have to switch to a fourth engine. The rumours circulating about it are very persistent. That will of course be a huge problem for Lewis.”
This weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix could see Hamilton take a similar penalty with Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff conceding it is coming, but that the team won’t make an announcement about it, it will “happen spontaneously”.
Looking ahead to the Istanbul race, the former F1 driver reckons F1 is in for another “exciting” tussle.
“It has been Mercedes country so far,” he said, “but Red Bull has come significantly closer everywhere and they will be closer there too.
“So it promises to be an exciting battle between Max and Lewis.
“And Bottas was actually the stronger of the two [Mercedes drivers] in Monza and was very strong in Sochi as well. At the end, of course, he will drive for his team-mate, so it’s not going to be easy for Red Bull in terms of strategy.”
As for the battle behind, he says: “I see McLaren competing at the front again. They have a Mercedes engine and a very efficient aerodynamic package.
“With the new engine, Charles Leclerc was clearly better. They also have a small trump card up their sleeve.
“I believe that we are experiencing a unique season. To have so many drivers up front is something we haven’t had in a long time. It is no longer the case that it is already clear in advance that a Mercedes will win.”
Time for Verstappen and Red Bull to turn the screw
After some excellent damage limitation in Russia, Max Verstappen has a huge chance to really take charge in the title fight in Turkey.