Why Lewis Hamilton was ‘impressed’ with Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were fierce rivals in 2021, as they fought for the Drivers' Championship.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has expressed his admiration for Max Verstappen’s outstanding lap time during the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix. 

Despite a grid penalty, Verstappen managed to top the timesheets in the final part of qualifying, showcasing his determination to limit the damage caused by the penalty.

Due to the grid penalty for using an additional gearbox, the Dutch driver will start Sunday’s race from the sixth position. 

However, Verstappen’s remarkable performance in the final qualifying segment left him as the fastest driver of the day, leaving Charles Leclerc to inherit the pole position. 

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The Monegasque, though inheriting pole, was over eight-tenths of a second adrift of Verstappen’s lightning-quick lap, highlighting the Red Bull driver’s dominance.

Hamilton, securing the fourth quickest time in the session, was promoted to the third position on the grid due to Verstappen’s penalty. 

Nonetheless, the Mercedes star found himself nearly a second slower than Verstappen’s impressive lap time. 

The significant gap between the two championship contenders surprised Hamilton, who remarked, “At the end I was still a good chunk off Max – pretty impressive.”

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Despite the gap, Hamilton remained content with his own performance, stating, “I’m really happy with the result we’ve got. 

“I have Max behind but the goal, of course, will be to chase those guys down… 

“The car didn’t feel bad today, pretty decent. 

“But in the middle sector, we’re losing a second, so I’ve got to go and study to try to figure out where that is and if there’s any way, within the package that we have, that I can close that.”

Verstappen, on the other hand, was elated with his eye-catching lap, acknowledging that he had pushed to the limit to achieve it. 

He admitted, “That final lap, I think was very good. 

“I just risked a bit more compared to all of the other laps, leaving a smaller margin, which almost knocked me out in Q2. 

“So it was tough out there today to get everything right.”

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Additionally, Verstappen attributed some of the perceived gap between his time and others to the weather conditions. 

He believed that if the qualifying session had been fully dry, the margin might not have been as significant. 

Verstappen stated, “If it would have been a fully dry qualifying, I think that the gap wouldn’t have been like this.