Max Verstappen puts Lewis Hamilton in the same category as these 3 drivers

Max Verstappen is targeting a third consecutive Drivers' Championship in 2023, something which would see him join the likes of Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda.

Double World Champion Max Verstappen still views seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton as a ‘dangerous threat’, with the Dutchman knowing that his fierce rival will be in the title fight should Mercedes deliver a strong car.

Verstappen and Hamilton were rarely seen together on-track in 2022, with the duo having been in completely different positions.

The Dutchman, of course, was in the lead for the vast majority of the season, whilst Hamilton was batting for the top five.

It was as a result of Mercedes having made a bit of a mess of the new aerodynamic regulations; however, it’s believed that they’ve solved and fixed their issues from last season.

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With that in mind, Verstappen knows that Hamilton is still a championship contender, given that he’s “one of the greatest drivers ever”.

“Of course he is, he’s one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1 at the launch of Red Bull’s RB19 last Friday.

“If he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again.

“It’s the same for George, for Charles, it’s the same for Lando. If you give them a car that’s capable of winning a championship, they can.”

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Given that Verstappen now understands the pressure that comes with fighting for a title, it would be fascinating to see if his approach to battling Hamilton would differ to 2021, where the pair collided on several occasions.

Verstappen has actually warned the likes of Charles Leclerc and George Russell about the pressure that comes with fighting for a title for the first time, with the biggest weight being that “you can’t afford mistakes”, something Leclerc certainly learnt last season.

“It’s also about when you have the car then the pressure comes,” he continued.

“You can’t afford mistakes, or at least you can’t afford big mistakes.

“That’s a little bit of a different pressure you have but I’m confident that once these guys get into a role like that, it’s all possible. They all have the talent to do so.”

Leclerc got a small taste of fighting for the title last season, before his and Ferrari’s year imploded, following a catalogue of errors.

Whilst he quickly slipped out of the title fight, the Monegasque will presumably have a better understanding this season of how to approach a championship battle, with Ferrari set to be in the position to do so.

Reportedly, Ferrari have had an incredible off-season and have increased the power of their engine by 30hp; however, new Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur has denied this.

Verstappen is expecting the Italians to once again be “strong opponents” in the forthcoming season but is unsure just how competitive they’ll be, something “time will tell”.

“I don’t have any understanding of how they are improving the car,” he explained.

“I guess time will tell.

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“I mean, they’re an amazing team. They have a lot of amazing people working there as well.

“Sure, there has been a change, but at the end of the day, I think they had already defined the direction they wanted to work in and they wanted to improve the car and the engine department.”

“So I still expect them to continue that path and they will definitely be strong opponents.”