While Max Verstappen won the 2022 title at a canter and made a dominant start to F1 2023, Lewis Hamilton does not think his former rival will take his eye off the ball.
Hamilton is familiar with the feeling of winning a World Championship in dominant fashion, seasons like 2019 and 2020 for example proving to be relatively straightforward strolls to his sixth and seventh career titles respectively.
But now it is Verstappen who has experienced such a situation, the Dutchman having wrapped-up the 2022 Drivers’ Championship with four rounds still to spare, winning a record 15 grands prix out of 22 that season.
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
And the rest of the grid now has a huge challenge to ensure that F1 2023 does not follow a similar path, with Verstappen taking all the momentum into Saudi Arabia after a dominant start to the campaign in Bahrain.
However, with Verstappen having said after his first title that anything which comes next is a bonus, since that maiden crown was the realisation of his goals, Hamilton was asked whether there is a chance that Verstappen could take his eye off the ball.
“I mean, I can’t really comment on Max,” Hamilton told media including PlanetF1.com.
“I think it’s always possible as an athlete of course, once you have it sealed, the pressure does switch and it’s different. You can sleep more, you don’t have to push in your training as much because you have different deliverables.
“But I think he will be very, very confident.”
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As a follow-up to that, Hamilton was asked again whether this means he sees a real danger that Verstappen could drop his level.
Hamilton though does not believe that will be the case, expecting Verstappen to remain completely focused, and therefore put the pressure on the likes of Hamilton’s Mercedes team to close the gap to the rampant Dutchman.
Mercedes are in desperate need of a response in Saudi Arabia after Hamilton managed only P5 in Bahrain and George Russell P7.
“No, I don’t think he will slip up,” Hamilton affirmed. “He’s a World Champion, so I wouldn’t question his determination and his focus.
“I think he will be just as focused as ever and it’s our job to catch up.”