Lewis Hamilton fear raised as Max Verstappen bids to maintain F1 stranglehold

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen laughs as Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton looks on.

Max Verstappen laughs as Lewis Hamilton looks on.

F1 analyst Peter Windsor believes Max Verstappen “absolutely” could become a seven-time World Champion, which could then take a record-breaking eighth title off the table for Lewis Hamilton.

Formula 1 is very much in the era of Max Verstappen, the dominant Dutchman having scored a record-breaking 19 grand prix wins on his way to the F1 2023 crown, his third World Championship triumph.

And with the regulations stable until 2026, at which point Verstappen would still then have another three seasons under Red Bull contract, there is no telling where he could leave the final benchmark.

Max Verstappen could deny Lewis Hamilton eighth title

Currently Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher share the record for most World Championship titles in F1 history with seven, Hamilton having penned a new Mercedes deal until the end of 2025 as he continues the pursuit of number eight.

But, with Hamilton having now gone two seasons without a win as Verstappen and Red Bull thrive, former Ferrari and Williams team manager Peter Windsor is starting to doubt whether Hamilton will even get a sniff of title glory again.

Asked as part of a YouTube live stream whether Verstappen could be the next seven-time World Champion, Windsor replied: “For sure he could, absolutely.

“I was talking about this with a friend actually, about how good Max is now. I made the point that one of the reasons he is so good now, so intense, and this is one of the reasons he’s good, is because he’s always been in a very good team with a very good car and knows those people well, particularly [Red Bull design chief] Adrian Newey and [team principal] Christian Horner.

“It’s a very good team as well. It’s one thing to know your team if they’re [in the] midfield, it’s another thing if they’re the best team in Formula 1 and he fits there like a glove on a hand and that’s absolutely a perfect situation for a driver with that amount of talent.

“And what has happened, as a result of that, the talent has taken an additional leap forward, I think to a realm that perhaps we’ve never seen before in the history of Formula 1.

“I don’t like comparing eras, but I can’t think of another driver who has been so in-sync with the car he drives, which happens to be, for the most part, a racing-winning car.

“I know there was a period when the Mercedes engine had the advantage and he didn’t have the power to compete, but even then it was a very good team getting the best from the car with a down-on-power engine. And it was a team that a young kid would want to be with at that point.

“Now, the car is brilliant and it’s just bringing more and more out of Max Verstappen.

“Has Lewis got the chance of winning another World Championship? I really hope he has, because I still feel terrible about what happened in Abu Dhabi, but I’m not sure that he will get that opportunity as long as Max is there at Red Bull to be honest.”

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Nonetheless, Hamilton and his Mercedes team are among the crop very much intent on taking the fight to Verstappen and Red Bull in F1 2024.

Windsor believes Mercedes and also Ferrari have little excuse to be anywhere other than pushing Red Bull for pace, though feels it would still be “pretty brave” to bet on anyone other than Verstappen considering the extensive race and title-winning knowledge collected by he and Red Bull in F1’s ground effect era.

He said: “On the assumption that next year, which is going to be year three of these ground-effect Formula 1 regulations, that a team as big as Mercedes, they’ve got all the building blocks, Ferrari, in a regulation period in-which the rulebook designs half the car for you, you would imagine that Mercedes and Ferrari would get it pretty much right.

“And you would imagine that at least one of the other teams, McLaren, Aston [Martin], will get it right as well and therefore it should be a lot closer in ’24, but does that prevent Max winning another championship?

“I think not, because Red Bull know how to run the car, they’ve got all the experience of the car over a full championship.

“If Ferrari and Mercedes do get to be somewhere near Red Bull with their car, which they should, then they’ve still got to go through that period as well in knowing how to run the car and that’s what Red Bull have got, that huge advantage. You’d have to be pretty brave to put a lot of money on a driver other than Max to win the championship.”

Verstappen sent various records tumbling last season, such as most grand prix wins in a season and longest winning streak with 10, and in F1 2024 could challenge Hamilton’s run of 48 consecutive points-scoring displays, with Verstappen currently on 41.

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