Lewis Hamilton makes bold claim on Max Verstappen team-mate standard

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen walks past Lewis Hamilton. Hungary, Budapest July 2023.

Max Verstappen walks past Lewis Hamilton. Hungary, Budapest July 2023.

Lewis Hamilton has delivered a damning assessment of the standard of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull F1 team-mates, claiming he has never had to face a challenge from within his own team.

Verstappen is on course to claim his third successive title in 2023 and holds a 138-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez with nine rounds remaining.

The Dutchman can make history at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, where a 10th successive win would see him take the record for the most consecutive victories for a single driver.

Lewis Hamilton: Max Verstappen has never faced a proper challenge at Red Bull

Verstappen has won 36 of the last 57 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning campaign in 2021, a year that ended with the Dutchman taking the crown from Hamilton in highly controversial circumstances in the infamous Abu Dhabi decider.

Hamilton has partnered drivers of the calibre of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, 2016 title winner Nico Rosberg and 2009 Champion Jenson Button over the course of his storied career, with the highly rated George Russell his current team-mate having replaced Valtteri Bottas at the start of last season.

And the Mercedes driver believes Verstappen – partnered with Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Perez since joining Red Bull in 2016 – has never faced a similar challenge in identical machinery, claiming the Dutchman’s dominance is no more remarkable than that of other drivers in the past.

He told Sky F1: “I’m no more impressed than when Michael [Schumacher] was leading, when Sebastian [Vettel] was leading when Kimi [Raikkonen] was driving, when Fernando was winning – it’s just the same.

“I think the [Red Bull] team as a whole is one of the strongest, they’re firing on all cylinders right now.

“The car is incredible, the drivers are doing an amazing job, very consistent, the pit crew is doing a great job, the mechanics are doing a good job, strategy is doing a good job – on point, you can’t fault them.

“In my personal opinion, all my team-mates have been stronger than the team-mates Max has had: Jenson, Fernando, George, Valtteri, Nico.

“I’ve had so many. These guys have all been very, very strong, very consistent – and Max has not raced against anyone like that.”

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Hamilton stands as the most successful driver in F1 history having equalled Schumacher’s long-standing record of seven World Championships in 2020, before becoming the first driver to surpass 100 grand prix wins and pole positions the following year.

However, he remains without a win since the penultimate round of the 2021 season in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton announced on Thursday at Monza that he will remain with Mercedes until the end of the 2025 season after agreeing a two-year contract extension.

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