The former F1 supremo claimed last year that Hamilton is no longer the fighter he once was and suggested the 37-year-old Briton was only extending his career having “looked at the clothing range and music but realised that it is not as easy to make money there as it is in F1”. 

In June, Ecclestone told Hamilton to accept a £20m pay-off and quit F1 following his underwhelming start to the 2022 season. 

Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth world title in the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Verstappen winning his first of two successive world titles. 

The CRAZY life of Bernie Ecclestone | Crash.Net F1 2022

And Ecclestone believes the newly-crowned two-time world champion is owed a thank you for providing the sport and its fans with exactly what they have wanted for years. 

“Formula 1 should thank Max Verstappen,” the 92-year-old told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf

“Max is a racer. He does what he has to do – he just races. The fans have wanted to see someone like that for a long time.”

Verstappen charged to his second world championship in 12 months in dominant fashion, winning a record-setting 15 grands prix across the 22-race season. 

Hamilton was four years older than Verstappen when he claimed his second world title in 2014, which marked the start of his dominant spell in the V6 hybrid era with Mercedes. 

The Dutchman could yet find himself enjoying a similar period of supremacy to challenge Hamilton and Michael Schumacher’s jointly-held record of seven world titles, providing Red Bull remain competitive in the coming years. 

And that is certainly the hope of Ecclestone, who said: “That depends on his car, but if Red Bull have their act together I don’t see why he can’t keep winning. 

“Whether Max will ever break the record of seven world titles? Who knows. Let’s hope so.”

Ecclestone faces trial in October next year accused of failing to declare more than £400m in a trust in Singapore to the government