Max Verstappen makes Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas vow as Red Bull eye Mercedes upset

F1: Hamilton reflects on 'unbelievable' achievements

Max Verstappen has vowed to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in 2021 and insists that while Mercedes are “very difficult” to beat, Red Bull are as hungry as ever to reign supreme.

Red Bull won four straight titles between 2010 and 2013 with Sebastian Vettel but have since watched Mercedes snap up all seven drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

Hamilton has won six of those, including all of the last four, to take his tally to seven, as many as the great Michael Schumacher managed.

The Brit is imminently out of contract with the Silver Arrows but is expected to agree an extension and will be the hot favourite for the 2021 title.

Despite getting older, with Hamilton turning 35 in January, he remains as dominant as ever and finished 124 points clear of Bottas in the final 2020 standings despite entering one race less than the Finn due to COVID-19.

Verstappen was the biggest threat to Mercedes and only finished nine points behind second placed Bottas, managing as many wins as Hamilton’s team-mate with two.

The Dutchman, 23, finished on the podium in 11 of the 12 races in which he crossed the finish line, with five DNFs ultimately costing him a better shot at the title.

But Verstappen is determined to give Hamilton a real run for his money next season, when Bottas will also be hoping to bridge the gap in the knowledge his seat for 2022 is uncertain with George Russell lurking.

“You cannot force things into life. It makes no sense to walk around with frustration all year round,” Verstappen told De Telegraaf when asked if Mercedes’ superiority eats away at him.

“Some people think they have their gram and pretend they have all the knowledge of Formula One, but if they did, they would have designed that car.

“We are still the second best team in Formula One. Of course we prefer to see some things better or differently and we want to participate for the championship, but that is no reason to p*** off the team.

“Then I do get fierce. Mercedes is very difficult to beat at the moment, although we will not give up.

“What lingers longer, that joy or disappointment? Actually neither. Such a win at Silverstone was great, but Mercedes had huge problems with their tires at the time and we had the right strategy.

“I also knew that it was more or less an incident. And for me, after those outages, it makes no sense to linger too long in disappointment. Or to p*** off everyone.

“Then the working relationship will not improve. You also have to make sure that everyone stays on the same page and that we have a pleasant working relationship.”

And Hamilton is expecting a fierce battle from Verstappen and the Red Bull team, who have replaced Alex Albon with Sergio Perez, who was brilliant for Racing Point in 2020.

“We’ve obviously got a fight on our hands next year,” Hamilton said after watching Verstappen win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Without a doubt, these guys are going to be strong, as this car [Verstappen] is driving now is next year’s car pretty much, and the same for us.

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“I’m excited for that challenge, and that battle that we hopefully will get.”

And Bottas said: “If we think about the big pictures, now in this team, being beaten by Red Bull at the last race of the season [in Abu Dhabi], for sure it motivates us even more to work hard over the winter for next year to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Hamilton has meanwhile learned that he will be knighted in the New Year after his brilliant work on and off of the track.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said of the seven-time F1 world champion: “Lewis is one of the very greatest racing drivers of all time and the most successful British sportsperson of his era.

“Around the world, he has long been recognised for his sporting achievement; this year, he combined his excellence on the track with a powerful voice to fight discrimination. In every sense, he led the way in 2020.

“The news that he is to receive a knighthood shows that he is now receiving the recognition he has earned during a career of unparalleled success in motorsport.

“The UK can be very proud to have a champion and ambassador of the calibre of Sir Lewis Hamilton.”

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