Lewis Hamilton has praised rival Max Verstappen for having a “phenomenal” 2023 campaign, with the Dutchman set to become a three-time World Champion at this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.
Should Sergio Perez win Saturday’s sprint race, then Verstappen only needs to finish sixth in the sprint to claim his third consecutive Drivers’ Championship, drawing him level with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda.
It’s very much a case of when rather than if Verstappen seals the crown, given just how big his advantage is.
With 13 wins from 16 races to his name this season, it’s easy to see why he’s set to reclaim his crown with six races remaining, including this weekend’s event at the Lusail International Circuit.
Verstappen has enjoyed a record-breaking campaign, which has already seen him break the record for most consecutive victories.
His win at the Italian Grand Prix marked his 10th in a row, eclipsing Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive victories
Given that there are six races remaining, Verstappen could break his own record set last season, for most wins in a single season.
He’s just two wins away from matching his 15 victories from 2022 and three away from eclipsing it, something he can do as soon as the Mexican Grand Prix.
Whilst Hamilton isn’t keen to rank Verstappen’s performance against previous World Champions, the seven-time World Champion has acknowledged how “amazing” the 26-year-old and Red Bull have done this year.
“I wouldn’t rank him. I think ranking people is an opinion-based thing,” Hamilton said, as reported by Sky Sports F1.
“I think he’s earned his position, he’s done an amazing job with the package that he has.
“Him and the team have been phenomenal this year, faultless, and I think they’ve raised the bar.
“As a team we have to look at that, and say, ‘ok, these are the areas that we need to develop to be able to match that and compete’.
“I do hope at some stage we can fight them and actually have them in a defending position, but they should definitely enjoy the moment because they’ve worked for it.”