Lewis Hamilton has stressed Mercedes needs to “stay on our toes” to remain ahead of Red Bull, who he believes are “still a title runner” in the 2020 Formula 1 season. 

Hamilton holds a 37-point advantage over Max Verstappen in this year’s championship standings after winning four of the opening six races of the season. 

Verstappen has scored the only non-Mercedes victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone and would have been closer to Hamilton had he not lost a heap of points because of a retirement in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Speaking in Thursday’s F1 press conference ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, Hamilton insisted he feels Red Bull and Verstappen are still in the championship fight. 

“If you take the first race away with Max having the DNF, I think if you look at the results it would be very, very close in points still,” Hamilton said. 

“And obviously they’ve had very strong results. And they’re getting closer in races, maybe in qualifying we do have the edge but when it comes to the race we’re generally a lot closer.

“We’re not even halfway through the season. And so I, absolutely, keep my eye on them. I think they still are a title runner, and so we need to stay on our toes.”

While Verstappen was able to win the second Silverstone race largely due to a combination of hot temperatures, a high-energy circuit and softer Pirelli tyres, Red Bull has not been a match for Mercedes in qualifying so far this season. 

Although Pirelli is bringing the same compounds used in the 70th Anniversary GP to Belgium this weekend, Verstappen doubts Red Bull will be able to challenge for victory. 

“We kept saying we need heat, we need heat – well, we definitely got beaten in the heat in Barcelona,” Verstappen explained. 

“Maybe we could have done things better, but a gap like that even with a bit of set-up work it’s not going to change

“Maybe the tyres will help. I don’t know, it’s not going to be warm enough I think anyway. So yeah, it’s tricky, but I always like to be realistic. I don’t like to tell fairy tales.

“It will be hard. But I will try to of course be on the podium.”

 

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