McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes the field behind Max Verstappen proves Formula 1 has never been more competitive, and can see Lewis Hamilton emerging from it to become an eight-time World Champion.
Verstappen and Hamilton delivered an all-time classic title battle in 2021, Verstappen coming out on top to become World Champion for the first time, this proving to be the spark for his rise to dominance.
Having strolled to the 2022 crown before taking a record-breaking 19 grand prix wins on his way to a third World title, Verstappen has become what seems like the unstoppable force, but could Hamilton be about to put an end to that?
Lewis Hamilton to win eighth title in F1 2024?
That 2021 Verstappen defeat saw Hamilton miss out on setting a new outright record of eight World Championship successes, with no further opportunity to re-write the history books having been presented since as Mercedes struggle to find the route to success in F1’s fresh era of ground effect aerodynamics.
Hamilton though has set his sights on an F1 2024 championship challenge, and as McLaren prepare to join him in the bid to reel Verstappen in, Brown teased that we could be about to see that eighth title-winning year from Hamilton.
Speaking to Speedcafe in a look ahead to F1 2024, the McLaren boss said: “We like what we’re seeing in the windtunnel and CFD at the moment, so we feel like we’re going to take a step forward.
“How much? The great mystery on Red Bull is when did they turn off the development of their car to focus on next year , and I think the answer is probably pretty early, so we’ll just have to wait and see how much Adrian Newey magic comes out of the oven so to speak to see where we are.
“And at the same time Mercedes or Ferrari, these teams have everything they need and are great teams and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting here and all of a sudden Mercedes was back to Lewis winning his eighth championship.”
While Hamilton was left underwhelmed by the 2023 campaign, as back-to-back seasons without a win were confirmed, for McLaren there was plenty of reason for excitement as the team surged up the order following a tricky start with the MCL60.
McLaren went on to score nine podium finishes, plus sprint victory in Qatar, with Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin joining them and Red Bull as regular visitors to the podium celebrations.
In Brown’s opinion, F1’s budget cap is working very well and will ultimately give us an F1 grid “unlike anything we’ve seen before”.
“I think it has been great,” said Brown of the budget cap.
“On one hand, with one driver, we’ve never had a less competitive Formula 1, thank you Max, hats off. Behind that, it’s the most competitive I’ve ever seen Formula 1.
“It’s the first time in the history of Formula 1 you’ve had five teams with seven podiums or more. You have teams that are ninth or tenth in the championship making it into Q3, I won’t say on a regular basis, but enough.
“In the good old days of Formula 1, the teams that were at the back of the grid were three seconds off. The entire grid is now covered by a second.
“So I don’t think Formula 1 has ever been more competitive, I think it’s going to get even more competitive. Once some of us catch this Max guy, Formula 1 is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
Verstappen goes into F1 2024 knowing a fourth World Championship on the trot would see him match Sebastian Vettel’s title-winning streak with Red Bull between 2010-13.
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