Lewis Hamilton would welcome Max Verstappen as his Formula 1 teammate at Mercedes and would see it as an “opportunity” to prove who is the better driver.

Verstappen has taken seven grand prix victories since graduating to Red Bull in 2016 and has been one of the star performers so far this season, claiming wins in Austria and last time out in Germany.

The Dutchman’s current Red Bull deal runs until the end of 2020, though there has been speculation that he could break away from the team early due to rumoured performance-related exit clauses in his contract, something team boss Christian Horner has repeatedly denied.

Hamilton insists he would not be against Verstappen joining him at Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas’ future at the German manufacturer beyond the end of the current campaign yet to be decided.

"I honestly have no problem with it,” Hamilton said. "I do like working with Valtteri, so I am not too sure how that dynamic would work for the team, but I am not saying it would or it would not.

"I see positives from that move and potential negatives, but there are always positives and negatives with different people you end up working with.

“In some ways it works well for me. I see stories saying that we have different cars, so that's the only way [I am beating him], so it gives me an opportunity to show that's not the case.”

Seven wins from the opening 11 rounds has seen Hamilton move into a 41-point lead over teammate Bottas, while two victories in the last three races has enabled Verstappen to move within 63 points of Hamilton.

The Briton says “time will tell” whether Verstappen will be able to launch a title assault this year, with the Red Bull driver stressing he is not thinking about the championship at this stage.

“I think he’s done a great job and they have clearly done a great job in quite a few of the races now,” Hamilton added.

“So in the last one we didn’t do such a great job, we did a pretty bad job, so it made their job look even better, but nevertheless I think we need to just focus on ourselves and not be distracted by focusing on others.

“I think they will probably be quick here and there will be places like Singapore where they will probably be strong, but they are in general, slowly, collectively catching up.

“It’s easier to catch up than it is to stay ahead, to be the leader in many different aspects. But it’s great to see them progressing. We want the competition so we’ll be ready for the fight whatever the case.”

 

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