Verstappen: Mercedes will be our “main rival” | Another Hamilton battle? 

Max Verstappen says he expects Mercedes to be Red Bull’s “main rival” in 2023 as he prepares for another potential F1 title battle against Lewis Hamilton. 
Verstappen: Mercedes will be our “main rival” | Another Hamilton battle? 

Verstappen defeated Hamilton in their showdown at the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to win his maiden F1 title, before enjoying a dominant run to his second successive drivers’ crown last season. 

Mercedes and Hamilton were unable to challenge for the title in a torrid 2022 campaign and spent much of the season as the third-fastest team following a major regulation overhaul. 

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But Verstappen admitted Red Bull are bracing themselves for a Mercedes fightback as they look to begin the defence of their world championships in 2023. 

Asked to assess Mercedes’ prospects at Red Bull’s glitzy season launch in New York, Verstappen said: “It’s difficult to say - at the end of the year sometimes it looked like they had it together, sometimes not. 

“It’s difficult to say, because I’m not part of their team, if they fully understand everything. I guess we will find out this year if they understand everything that they want to improve.

“For sure, they will be our main rival.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 and Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21,
Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 and Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull…

The Dutchman added: “Ferrari will be strong. But how strong? Difficult to say.

“Mercedes have shown over the past few years that they are always strong, and have a good group of people.

“I trust in our people that they can build a good car, and we will have a strong package against them.”

But Verstappen believes Hamilton is one of several drivers, including his Mercedes teammate George Russell, and 2022 rival Charles Leclerc, that could threaten to take his F1 crown. 

"He's been one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport, so for sure if he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again,” he told Sky. 

"But that's the same for George [Russell, Hamilton's team-mate]. it's the same for Charles [Leclerc, Ferrari], it's the same for Lando [Norris, McLaren] - if you give them the car that's capable of winning the championship, they can.

"But it's also about when you have the car then the pressure comes you cannot afford big mistakes.

"That's a bit of a different pressure you have but I'm confident once these guys get onto a roll like that it is all possible, they all have talent to do so."

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