Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko suggests that Sir Lewis Hamilton is at the peak of his performance, and he may not have many years left at the top.
Hamilton is level with the great Michael Schumacher on seven F1 world championships – making him the joint most successful driver of all time.
He began his career in 2007 at McLaren alongside Fernando Alonso and, after a tense relationship with the Spaniard, they both missed out on the title by one point to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
He claimed his first title a year later, and has since added six more with Mercedes; it looked as though it was going to be seven until late on in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.
A controversial Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi resulted in a dramatic final lap overtake from Max Verstappen to seal his maiden world championship.
This was preceded by the Briton winning three of the last four races in 2021, and Dr Marko is unsure if the 37-year-old can maintain such imperious form for much longer, particularly after such a taxing season.
“Hamilton delivered an incredible second half of the season,” he told OE24.
“I can hardly imagine he can drive at this level for much longer. He’s at his zenith now, age is slowly coming into play.”
Conversely, the 78-year-old reckons that Verstappen will only improve in the coming years.
“He’s world champion now and he will get stronger,” he remarked.
Asked about what he had been up to during the off season, Dr Marko revealed that he had been “spending a lot of time working in the forest” to relax following a brutal 2021 campaign.
However, Verstappen is now ready to get back to the track and tackle the new technical regulations this year.
“I’m already focused on the test drives again. Only after that can I say where we stand,” he explained.
“We have such a gigantic change in regulations that it’s hard to get a real impression because of the simulation.”
Verstappen notched up 147 laps on day one of testing in Barcelona as he focused largely on long runs, and was in the car for the morning session on day three.