Lewis Hamilton has rekindled the old rivalry with Max Verstappen that consumed the Formula 1 narrative over the last few years, claiming that if he was given Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull, he’d be able to give Verstappen the Championship fight he deserves.
Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion and Formula 1’s most-decorated driver, has struggled to revive some of the elite form he’s shown throughout his racing career since narrowly missing out on his record-breaking eighth title in dramatic circumstances in Abu Dhabi 2021, allowing Max Verstappen to claim his maiden title and initiate a new era of Red Bull supremacy.
Since then, Hamilton has been forced to bide his time in pursuit of his next title. With a barrage of unresolved issues troubling Mercedes and its cars over the last two years, Hamilton has spent more time looking up the grid, rather than below.
WATCH Lewis Hamilton declares he wants Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull car below.
During the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, in which Max Verstappen claimed his eighth consecutive win of the season and led Red Bull to a record 13th consecutive win, the same porpoising problems that plagued Hamilton last season resurfaced. The Mercedes driver contested with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for P3 early on, but Hamilton struggled to charge up the pack on a largely ineffective day at Spa.
“It was kind of a non-eventful race. There wasn’t much going on and I wasn’t able to keep up with the cars ahead of me,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “Struggled at the beginning, rear end is our biggest issue and we had big bouncing this weekend, so we were back to the bouncing like we had last year.
Hamilton started the race in third behind Sergio Pérez and Charles Leclerc, but couldn’t make any significant moves on the lead and finished in P4. Max Verstappen was able to take the lead from P6 within 17 laps, but Hamilton was less than convinced by his rival’s scintillating pace.
“Do I want to be as fast as [Max]? Of course! Would I like to have a car that’s as fast as him? Of course!” Hamilton revealed after the race. “If I was in Sergio’s car, Max would not be having the same time he’s having now.”
Hamilton may have a point: despite the recent bouncing issues that Hamilton endured in Belgian, the British driver was still able to claim the fastest lap around Spa following a late pit stop, denying his Red Bull rival the pleasure of securing maximum points and a perfect race weekend.
Following the results of the Sprint and the Belgian Grand Prix, Verstappen is 125 points clear in the Drivers’ Championship and is running away for his third consecutive Formula 1 World Championship.
The gulf in class between the Dutch phenom and his F1 rivals this season is astronomical; the two-time World Champion is not only leaving the rest of the teams in his wake, but even Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez driving the same car. The chasing pack are battling for the crumbs Verstappen leaves further down the grid.
Were Hamilton to be placed behind the wheel of the far-superior RB19, he’d undoubtedly give Verstappen a Championship fight, something Verstappen has admitted he’d like to avoid.
“I like solo racing,” Max Verstappen revealed. “Personally I’d rather have a bigger gap with the competition. I don’t mind racing, but I’ve done it often enough in my career and I don’t necessarily always have to.”
The F1 calendar is currently on a mandated summer break over the next 14 days, following the conclusion of the Belgian Grand Prix. The racing action will return on 27 August for Verstappen’s home circuit, Zandvoort and the Dutch Grand Prix.