Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen title prediction as Mark Webber gives Red Bull verdict

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are set to battle it out for the F1 title this season if engine suppliers Honda deliver the goods for Red Bull. That is the verdict of former Red Bull driver Mark Webber, has ruled out Ferrari from threatening Mercedes’ hopes of extending their dominance of F1.

Hamilton this month shook off the cobwebs that will have built up since he last got behind the wheel of an F1 car by taking part in a private test with Mercedes at Silverstone.

The 35-year-old is now just seven Grand Prix wins and one World Drivers’ Championship away from matching the achievements of the legendary Michael Schumacher.

Few would bet against Hamilton making it four titles on the bounce this season, but Verstappen will be eager to stop that from happening.

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The 22-year-old has long been touted as a future F1 champion and impressed during testing in Barcelona in February.

Webber has now offered his backing to Verstappen, who the Australian sees as the only man capable of challenging Hamilton over the course of the 2020 campaign.

“I think that it’s really between [Verstappen] and Lewis,” said Webber, during an appearance on Dutch TV channel Ziggo Sport. “I don’t see anyone else at the party, to be honest.

“I don’t see Ferrari arriving this year. I don’t see anyone else that can take it to Lewis, so it has to be Max.”

Red Bull were second quickest team during pre-season testing and have home advantage when the 2020 season starts in Spielberg having won the past two Austrian Grands Prix.

Webber has faith in Christian Horner’s team, but has put the onus on Honda to provide an engine capable of mounting a sustained title challenge.

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“Milton Keynes [where Red Bull are based], I’m confident in,” Webber said. “I’m confident in the aerodynamics. I’m confident in all of the strategy and operationally [they are] superb.

“It’s just really whether Honda can still take it to Mercedes over what we have now, [which is] a very condensed season.”

Mercedes will have their Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system at their disposal in Austria, with the technology aimed at helping Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas manage their tyres.

Webber, who spent eight seasons with Red Bull and 14 in F1 in total, has showered praise on the Silver Arrows for coming up with the innovative system.

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“Awesome – that’s exactly what Formula 1 has always been about,” Webber said. “In the ’60s, ’70s, Colin Chapman, Gordon Murray, Adrian Newey, all these guys, they had so many amazing ideas. And they’re still doing it now.

“Mercedes, obviously they’ve had a tremendous engine for a long time, and the horsepower stakes have never been closer but they still find a way to generate very, very good downforce.

“And I think also because Pirelli is such an average tyre, it’s actually a very average racing tyre, so teams have had to find new ways, to find new innovations to make it easier to handle the tyres.

“It would never happen with a normal, flat-out racing tyre. But because the Pirelli is so sensitive, you’ve got to find ways to help the tyre.”

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