Max Verstappen says it would be “amazing” to welcome Lewis Hamilton back to the victory fight and all other comers amidst his current domination of Formula 1.
Since the start of the F1 2023 campaign it has seemed as though a Red Bull-exclusive title fight is brewing, and the reigning double champs taking a perfect seven wins from seven has only further fuelled such thoughts.
And Verstappen is now quickly snuffing out hopes of a challenge coming his way in defence of his Drivers’ title. With P16 and P4 finishes for team-mate Sergio Perez in the latest rounds, while Verstappen scored a pair of wins, it means his lead now stands at 53 points.
But, while Verstappen won most recently at the Spanish Grand Prix with a margin of 24 seconds over Hamilton, there was an extra layer to this routine victory which has given hope that Verstappen may come up against some stern competition in the not too distant future.
While Aston Martin and specifically Fernando Alonso had been leading the ‘best-of-the-rest’ charge, Mercedes with their new-look W14 put themselves firmly to the head of that queue in Spain, Hamilton claiming P2 with George Russell ensuring that two Mercedes drivers featured on the podium.
All eyes are now on Mercedes and whether they can replicate that form and improve further from this very early stage with their new philosophy, and Verstappen thinks it would be “amazing” if that was the case.
While he seems to be strolling towards a third World title in a row now, he hopes strong challengers will emerge from the chasing pack, with Hamilton having set his sights on reeling Red Bull in before F1 2023 is over, or at the very least being right on their pace from the start next season.
Asked after the Spanish GP if he would welcome another title battle with Hamilton after their 2021 classic, with Russell perhaps factoring in too, Verstappen replied: “Yeah, I think it’s great for the sport in general, right, if you have more teams fighting up front.
“That’s, I think, what they want to achieve so, honestly, that would be amazing, to have more drivers really up there, and hopefully throughout the year it will already get closer and maybe next year there are more teams really up there.”
Verstappen now then, like the rest of us, will wait to see how Mercedes get on post-Spanish GP as the season rolls on, though regardless it is looking like an almighty task for Red Bull to be caught before the chequered flag comes down on F1 2023 in Abu Dhabi.
But as rosy as everything looks for Red Bull right now, Verstappen warned that the last thing Red Bull can afford to do is “stand still”.
Asked for his thoughts on Mercedes’ pace at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Verstappen responded: “I think they had a very strong race, to be honest.
“I think they are improving but from our side, it’s not about being worried. We just have to focus on ourselves, trying to keep on improving the car.
“At the moment it all looks great but you can’t stand still in this world. We just keep trying to find things on the car, try to learn – like today understand why the hard [tyre] wasn’t working with the car.
“And yeah, we’ll see what happens in the coming races. I don’t know if there are going to be tracks that are better or worse. We’ll find out.”
Mercedes jumped ahead of Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship with that Spain double podium, though the gap to Red Bull out front already stands at 135 points.