Ralf: Lewis Hamilton has to ‘fight harder’ than Max Verstappen to stay at the top

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen next to Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain March 2022.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen stand alongside each other for the pre-season team photos. Bahrain March 2022.

Ralf Schumacher believes Max Verstappen has the advantage when it comes to the battle with Lewis Hamilton for Formula 1 supremacy.

While the two were largely kept apart during the 2022 season, the 2021 Formula 1 campaign was characterised by the Dutchman and the Brit’s season-long battle for the Championship.

It would take until the final lap of the final race for Verstappen to secure his maiden title and while the road to his second Championship was a lot smoother, he and Hamilton are still the two favourites going into 2023.

Hamilton has often been touted as the only current driver who is able to keep up with Verstappen but Ralf Schumacher believes that Hamilton’s age could be a downside when it comes to the fight.

“Although Lewis Hamilton is still an absolute top driver, he is no longer the youngest. Since the tooth of time gnaws,” Schumacher told Sport1.

“Max and Lewis are still the most complete drivers in the field. However, Lewis already had a hard fight with George [Russell] within the team. Max with [Sergio] Perez only briefly at the beginning of the season.

“One thing is certain: Max is close to his zenith and will be able to keep it up for a long time due to his age. Lewis has to do more to be at the limit, fight more for it.”

While Schumacher has doubted Hamilton’s ability to still perform at a high level, he has been full of praise for the other Mercedes driver Russell.

Schumacher, whose nephew Mick joined the team as a reserve driver, said he believed that Russell’s performance this season was even better than Nico Rosberg’s title-winning run in 2016.

“Let’s assume George Russell is faster than Lewis Hamilton again. Will he [Hamilton] then continue at all? This will be exciting. But Lewis has so much credit with Mercedes that he decides it himself. In any case, the money will not play a role for him. He has more than enough of that. The decisive factor will be who suits the new car better.

“Russell is great. It’s important to remember that as a young driver he joined Lewis as a team-mate who was top dog in every respect. Still, he hit him. That gnaws at Lewis.

“Under these circumstances, George’s performance is even better for me than Nico Rosberg’s in 2016.”

Russell finished 35 points ahead of Hamilton while Verstappen was 214 points ahead of his 2021 rival.

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