Sky F1 presenter David Croft is hopeful of a reignition of the Lewis Hamilton versus Max Verstappen battle in 2024.
With Verstappen enjoying a car advantage over 2022 and ’23 as Red Bull’s cars have proven quicker than Mercedes’ since the regulation changes introduced for 2022, the tremendous season-long fight between F1’s leading drivers in 2021 has yet to be replicated since.
Hamilton is chasing down a record-breaking eighth title in 2024, while Verstappen is seeking to add to his growing list of achievements after producing F1’s most dominant season ever by a driver in 2023.
David Croft: Max Verstappen has ‘finessed’ early career aggression
Addressing the audience at the 2024 Autosport International Show on Saturday, Sky F1 presenter David Croft spoke about his opinions on the 2023 season and looked ahead to 2024.
With one fan opining they felt Red Bull had gained an advantage through their budget cap overspend in 2021, Croft moved to disagree with the comments and revealed Christian Horner had said the team came in significantly under the budget for 2023 as a result of Max Verstappen incurring minimal crash damage during the season.
With the fan saying they felt Verstappen was a dirty driver, Croft addressed the comment by speaking to the crowd.
“I don’t think Max is a dirty driver,” he said.
Verstappen gained a reputation in the first few years of his F1 career for being an unyielding driver and courted controversy by moving around under braking – incensing the Ferrari drivers at Spa in 2016.
But those traits are no longer evident, Croft continued.
“I think, at one stage, he was, in the early part of his career, overly aggressive at times,” he said.
“Bbut I think he’s finessed that a little bit now.
“What I do think is, the day we get Lewis and Max racing wheel to wheel again and – let’s face it, that was one hell of a season – when we get that, Max might just change his driving style just a little bit more, because he knows how good Lewis is.”
With Verstappen going largely unchallenged save the occasional fight from a Ferrari driver or Sergio Perez over the past two years, Croft said he’s keen to see Verstappen challenged by Hamilton again – perhaps in 2024, should Mercedes’ new W15 prove more competitive.
“Lewis is a seven-time F1 World Champion, and he knows that he’s got to get his elbows out just a little bit,” Croft said.
“I think Lewis knows he’s got to get his elbows out a little bit with Max as well. That’s why it’s proper box office.
“So my real hope for this year is that we actually get a Mercedes car that is a bit more on par with the Red Bull car.”