Ex-Formula 1 driver Christijan Albers believes Lewis Hamilton is “the only one” capable of defeating Max Verstappen this year, but that Mercedes need “a better car” for the British driver to really take the fight to the Dutchman.
Hamilton has endured two winless seasons since being controversially defeated by Verstappen in the race for the 2021 crown, whereas the three-time World Champion has featured on the top step of the podium 34 times.
Verstappen is very much the dominant driver currently in F1 and has a genuine chance of surpassing Hamilton’s record-breaking 103 wins, if his superiority continues for the next few years.
Unless Mercedes, Ferrari or McLaren improve enough to topple Red Bull, then Verstappen’s dominance will go on.
Mercedes are doing all they can to stop Red Bull in 2024 by starting from scratch, after introducing two failed concept designs the last two years.
An entirely new concept will be introduced by the Silver Arrows ahead of pre-season testing, with the hope being that Hamilton and George Russell will have a car at their disposal which can finally challenge for victories on a regular basis.
If Mercedes’ 2024 car is good, then Albers expects Hamilton to compete for the crown against Verstappen, as the seven-time World Champion is the only driver in his opinion who can “perform consistently” and “manage his tyres” as well as the Red Bull driver.
There’s no doubting that Hamilton still has the talent to compete with Verstappen, despite the fact he’ll be 39 years old when the new season gets underway.
It does all largely depend on Mercedes having a positive off-season though, which is why as a “neutral observer”, Albers is hopeful that the Germans have a strong car.
“For the neutral observer, I hope that Mercedes will come with a better car in 2024,” Albers said in his column for De Telegraaf.
“Because if you look purely at the qualities of the current drivers, I think Lewis Hamilton is the only one who can come close to Verstappen.
“I am mainly talking about the quality of being able to perform consistently and be very stable in lap times during a race.
“Just like Verstappen, Hamilton is someone who can manage his tyres wonderfully. Assessing certain situations, feeling the rubber; in that respect they are alone.”