Sky F1 pundit Naomi Schiff can see where Lewis Hamilton is coming from by claiming Max Verstappen has not faced the same quality of team-mate he has in Formula 1.
Verstappen has now firmly established himself as the dominant force of Formula 1 and knows victory at the Italian Grand Prix will see him set a new outright record with a 10th victory in a row.
His Red Bull team are undefeated overall so far in F1 2023, with Verstappen claiming 11 of their 13 victories.
Naomi Schiff claims Lewis Hamilton to “some extent accurate”
Ahead of that potentially history-making outing at Monza for Verstappen, the driver who he took over from as Formula 1’s unstoppable force, that being Hamilton, made the claim that Verstappen has not faced team-mates of the level he has.
Since Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull after the 2018 campaign, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and now Sergio Perez have tried to contend with Verstappen’s performance level, all to no avail.
“In my personal opinion, all my team-mates have been stronger than the team-mates Max has had: Jenson [Button], Fernando [Alonso], George [Russell], Valtteri [Bottas], Nico [Rosberg],” Hamilton told Sky F1.
“I’ve had so many. These guys have all been very, very strong, very consistent – and Max has not raced against anyone like that.”
In response to that claim, Schiff said Red Bull’s inability to find a capable Verstappen team-mate in recent years, Perez the latest struggling to cement his place in that second seat, lends some credit to Hamilton’s point.
“We’ll let Lewis say what he wants to say and believe what he wants to believe. And I think to some extent, he’s accurate,” she said.
“Because you just ask Red Bull what they’ve been doing with that second driver seat for the last couple of years, rotating it because they didn’t think the driver was good enough. So I think Red Bull are kind of acknowledging what Lewis is saying there.
“But at the same time, I don’t know if you can fully put Checo Perez…because obviously [he is] maintaining that seat at the moment, Daniel decided to leave on his own decision.
“But overall, I will say I think Lewis has had tougher team-mates. But I still think that’s not the benchmark, because at the end of the day, Max is not just showing he can beat Perez, he’s beating Perez by too much.”
Sky F1 commentator David Croft argued that since Hamilton was not able to put together a winning streak as impressive as Verstappen’s during Mercedes’ dominant years, it means either Hamilton is right with his Verstappen claim, or Verstappen is just a better driver.
“The thing is Lewis has never had the runs that Max is on at the moment,” said Croft.
“So if you look at the stats, that can back up what Lewis is saying. It’s either that or Max is better and will prove to be a better driver in the future. That’s for others to decide, not for me, or his car is that more dominant than cars that Lewis Hamilton has sat in.
“Lewis has not always had the most dominant car in Formula 1 at his disposal, but only last year, did he go through a whole season without a victory. So that’s the bit that impresses me most about Lewis’ career so far, that he’s always found that victory.
“You’re judged against your team-mate, but I don’t think that’s for us to judge at this moment in time.”
Only the most spectacular of meltdowns could derail Verstappen’s charge to his third World title now, the Dutchman 138 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.