‘Lewis Hamilton didn’t destroy team-mates like Max Verstappen does’

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez shakes Max Verstappen's hand. Baku, June 2022.

Red Bull team-mates Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen shake hands. Baku, June 2022.

Max Verstappen is far more ruthless on his team-mates than Lewis Hamilton is, that’s according to Formula E driver Sam Bird.

Romping towards a second successive Drivers’ Championship title, Verstappen is set to finish this season ahead of his Red Bull team-mate for the fifth year running.

The last time he lost to a team-mate was Daniel Ricciardo back in 2017.

But while Hamilton is also a driver with a five-year streak of beating his team-mate, the Briton up on Valtteri Bottas from 2017 to 2021, Bird reckons Verstappen’s gap over the sister car is far more dominant.

This season the reigning World Champion is up to nine wins compared to Perez’s one, with his latest triumph coming at the Belgian Grand Prix.

That Sunday he raced from 14th on the grid to beat Perez by almost 18 seconds despite the Mexican driver having started P2.

Bird reckons it’s that sort of performance that sets Verstappen apart from the rest, even Hamilton.

“Max’s skill set is remarkable, because Sergio Perez is a very strong driver,” he said during the latest BBC Chequered Flag podcast.

“But Max Verstappen is not only able to find just a little bit more speed than him, we’re talking a second a lap. Pretty much when he needs to, when he wants to.

“It’s a second a lap and that’s a staggering amount of lap time. If I’m a second a lap off a team-mate, I’m thinking what on earth is going on?

“He’s able to destroy and dispatch people in such a manner that I don’t think I’ve seen.

“I mean, Lewis dominated Formula 1 for a long period of time, but he didn’t absolutely destroy team-mates like this, I don’t think.

“Valtteri was closer to Lewis than anybody has been to Max recently.”

Such has been Verstappen’s pace over his team-mates that Red Bull reckon that led to Ricciardo leaving after the 2018 season while both Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon found themselves demoted when they weren’t able to match the Dutchman.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen lifts the winner's trophy above his head. France July 2022.

The 35-year-old, who once dreamt of racing in Formula 1 and was handed a run at the 2010 young drivers’ test in Abu Dhabi with Mercedes, was full of praise for F1’s reigning World Champion.

“Max is the complete package,” Bird added. “His car control, his superb ability to brake late, feel the car underneath him in that particular area of the circuit is superb.

“He’s able to control the car in terms of its slip on exit of corners brilliantly. He’s got the car set up exactly how he wants. He’s been at Red Bull now for a pretty long time and he knows exactly how he wants that racing car.

“They’ve designed the car, remember, for Max Verstappen to go quickly. And that is really helping him right now. His confidence is up.

“He’s the reigning World Champion. I don’t see him being beaten. I just don’t.”