LONDON (AFP) – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said he can beat Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One title if his car is good enough, insisting Britain’s six-time world champion is “not God”.
The 22-year-old Dutchman could prove Hamilton’s closest challenger this year, following Red Bull’s strong finish to the end of last season.
Hamilton, 35, has dominated F1 in recent years, winning five of the past six championships, and will this year equal Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven titles if he secures another triumph.
But asked if he could beat Hamilton over the course of a season, Verstappen said, “Yes. Of course, it is very car-dependent in Formula One. Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there. He is not God, maybe God is with him.
“When you can put the pressure on it is a lot harder for the guy in the lead. If he never really has pressure, he can drive at 97 or 98 per cent and then you never make mistakes.
“If we start the season within two-tenths (of a second of Mercedes), we can mount the pressure. I am looking forward to when we get that fight and if we are really close I am pretty sure we can do better.”
Verstappen, speaking at a Red Bull media event on Monday, resisted the lure of a move to either Mercedes or Ferrari by committing his long-term future to Red Bull with a four-year contract extension.
Hamilton’s next move is uncertain, with his Mercedes deal set to expire at the end of the year.
“It is a good thing my future is sorted because it takes away any doubt,” said Verstappen, who won three times last year and finished third in the championship behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
“There are no question marks any more. When you go into a season and your contract is up at the end of the year, at one point it is going to be a bit awkward. I didn’t want to have any of that.
“This is the right place. I see the motivation and hunger to fight for victories and a championship. Looking at this year we want to mount a challenge to Mercedes and I think we can do that.”
The first race of the season takes place in Australia on March 15.