Lewis Hamilton believes that Max Verstappen has ‘half a second per lap’ in hand on Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren ahead of the United States Grand Prix, leaving the Silver Arrows with plenty still to do in the development race.
Fans were treated to a flashback to the 2021 title fight and the 2022 United States GP during the sprint race on Saturday as Hamilton chased down Verstappen during the early stages. For a few laps, the Brit hung on in DRS range, but Verstappen soon broke the one-second barrier and checked out.
Verstappen ended the race over nine seconds clear of Hamilton after just 19 laps of green flag running, sending an ominous warning to the rest of the grid for the Grand Prix. The three-time world champion will start from P6 after losing his final flying lap to a track limits violation.
“It was a good position to be able to watch what Max’s car was doing, and how it was behaving,” Hamilton explained ahead of the Grand Prix. “So, I got to watch for a while and see where they are particularly strong, which we can obviously see that on GPS or something like that.
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“But still at least [it was valuable] to know where we are, if there’s anywhere we’re stronger, and where we’re weaker, so I can download that to my team. And at the end, I think everyone’s tyres were struggling towards the end of that stint.”
Hamilton remained positive regarding his team’s chances of making a dent in Red Bull’s advantage over the winter, but the seven-time world champion remains realistic about the odds of replicating the 2021 title fight again in 2024.
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“Everyone behind these guys has a lot of work to do. It’s no small feat for us to truly catch them for next year. They will be progressing at a steep rate, as they’ve got an amazing development team to make it even steeper for us to be able to close that gap.
“But I’m going to put 100% faith in my team that we can do it. We’re not in the same league as them at the moment so we’re not in shooting [range]. I mean maybe to get second or third, but if Max is on form, there’s no chance.”
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