Major Max Verstappen boost as rival calls off F1 2024 title challenge

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull's Max Verstappen looks over his shoulder in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, looks over shoulder.

Max Verstappen is poised to match towards a four consecutive World Championship in F1 2024, according to Mercedes’ George Russell, who does not see anyone who could mount a resistance. 

Verstappen went into the 2024 campaign as overwhelming favourite to continue his dominant ways in Formula 1, having last year stormed to a third World Championship in succession, winning a remarkable 19 of the 22 grands prix held.

George Russell declares Max Verstappen four-time champion

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

All eyes were on the Dutchman at the opening round of the new campaign in Bahrain, where he called on the true performance of the Red Bull RB20 for the first time.

The result was concerning for all drivers not named Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman claimed the first pole position on offer in F1 2024, turning that into a dominant victory as he crossed the line 22.5 seconds ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and 25 clear of the highest non-Red Bull finisher, third-placed Carlos Sainz.

This time last year Russell was saying Red Bull would win every race in 2023 – a prediction which only Sainz in Singapore prevented from coming true – though Russell told media including that he is “definitely not” as downbeat about Mercedes’ F1 2024 prospects.

That being said, while Russell says the W15 is a “much better car” than its predecessors, he does not believe the Mercedes – or any other car – is up to the task of denying Verstappen the F1 2024 crown.

“For Lewis [Hamilton] and I, at least we’ve definitely got a much better car this year, one I do believe we can build from,” Russell continued.

“Red Bull has always been strong here [in Bahrain], so have Ferrari – I’d say this has been a bit of a bogey track for us in the last couple of years.

“So I do think it’s too early to say, but no doubt Max is the favourite. I don’t think anybody is going to be fighting him for the championship this year.

“But I hope some people are going to be battling for victories here and there.”

Russell admitted that Mercedes could not show the “true potential” of the W15 in Bahrain due to engine overheating issues, costing he and Hamilton “four tenths a lap.” recommends

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That being said, he is not sure that challenging Ferrari’s Sainz for the final podium spot was ever on the cards regardless of the issues Mercedes encountered during the race.

“I think the podium would have been just out of reach,” Russell admitted, “but for sure we could have given it a better fight.”

The 2024 cars are now set to be tested in a new environment as F1 heads into action at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Read next: Five big Saudi Grand Prix questions: Christian Horner, Red Bull and more talking points