Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says Red Bull’s Max Verstappen wants to follow in Sir Lewis Hamilton’s footsteps.
Hamilton won his first Formula 1 World Championship back in 2008, only his second season in the series, but it was not until he joined Mercedes that he propelled himself to Formula 1 stardom.
Since the start of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014, Hamilton has won six of the seven Drivers’ titles on offer, putting him level with Michael Schumacher at the top of Formula 1 with seven World Championships, while Hamilton also now holds the record for most race wins.
And Wolff said Verstappen, who is widely seen as one of Formula 1’s future stars, wants to “follow in Hamilton’s footsteps”.
Last season, Verstappen was the only non-Mercedes challenger to Hamilton in an otherwise dominant season for the Briton, with Verstappen taking two race wins at the 70th Anniversary and Abu Dhabi GPs.
“With Max Verstappen, they have a driver who wants to follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton and with Sergio Perez they have a driver who can also score regularly in the battle for the Constructors’ Championship.
“That’s why I see Red Bull as the main competitor.”
In recent years, Formula 1’s top three outfits had been Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, but a torrid season for the Scuderia saw them slip to P6 in the final 2020 standings.
Wolff is unsure whether or not the Maranello outfit have made progress over the winter, but is looking at other midfield outfits whom he feels could spring a surprise.
And if Mercedes are not ready, then Wolff says they could find themselves down in “sixth or seventh” place as he feels more teams will be challenging for the podium.
“As I’ve said before, you can’t write off the rest,” he explained.
“At Ferrari, it’s not clear how much ground they can make up for this year, but the other three or four teams in midfield will make our lives a lot more difficult this year.
“If it’s not about victory, it will be about the number of podium places. That’s why as a team you can’t afford to go wrong. Otherwise you will quickly be in sixth or seventh place.”