Lewis Hamilton speaks out with Max Verstappen set to be crowned three-time champion

Michelle Foster
Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Japanese Grand Prix.

Barring disaster of epic proportions, ie a double DNF, Max Verstappen will be crowned the 2023 Formula 1 World Champion in Qatar this weekend.

And Lewis Hamilton says it’s deserved after his and Red Bull’s “phenomenal” season.

Two years ago Hamilton was fighting Verstappen for the Drivers’ Championship title, the two going wheel-to-wheel in the 2021 championship with the title decided on the final lap.

‘Him and the team have been phenomenal this year, faultless’

That season Hamilton was tipped to break Michael Schumacher’s record for the most World titles ever, eight, but instead found his hopes dashed on the final lap in Abu Dhabi when the Red Bull driver clinched the race win and the World title.

Verstappen has since gone on to add a second Drivers’ Championship title to his name, the driver winning 15 of 2022’s 22 races, while on Saturday he could clinch title number three.

All he needs is a P6 in the Qatar sprint race and he’ll be a triple World Champion. Either three points on Saturday or three before the weekend is done on Sunday night.

With, potentially, three titles in three races and just 25 years of age, Verstappen is being tipped to break all the big Formula 1 records including Hamilton’s most wins, 103, and the Briton and Michael Schumacher’s most titles, seven.

Asked where he’d rate his rival in the mix of F1 greats, Hamilton said: “I wouldn’t rank him. I think ranking people is an opinion-based thing.

“I think he’s earned his position, he’s done an amazing job with the package that he has.

“Him and the team have been phenomenal this year, faultless, and I think they’ve raised the bar.

“As a team we have to look at that, and say, ‘ok, these are the areas that we need to develop to be able to match that and compete’.

“I do hope at some stage we can fight them and actually have them in a defending position, but they should definitely enjoy the moment because they’ve worked for it.”

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But while Hamilton won’t put a number on it, double World Champion Fernando Alons reckons Verstappen ranks up top with seven-time World Champion Schumacher.

“Big congratulations on any incredible season breaking so many records,” said the Aston Martin driver.

“When you win so many races – and they were not easy races, sometimes they were tricky with weather conditions, we went through June-July all the races were hit by rain on Saturdays or Sundays and it was sometimes tricky – and when you make no mistakes and deliver the job every Sunday, it’s big respect.”

Asked if Verstappen was up there with F1’s other great drivers, he replied: “I think honestly I’ve only been wheel-to-wheel with Michael…”

Pressed on Verstappen versus Schumacher, Alonso said: “Maybe, yeah. We have to wait and see. I think the next few years will be even better for Max, to be honest. He will keep adding championships so we will compare to Michael even closer in the future.”

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