Max Verstappen has laughed off Lewis Hamilton’s claim that Mercedes are not ready to compete for victories heading into next week’s season-opening race in Bahrain. Seven-time champion Hamilton made the eye-catching statement after watching Verstappen finish clear of the rest of the field at the end of pre-season testing. However, Verstappen has suggested that his rival could be playing mind games,
and has hinted that he would not be surprised to see Mercedes turn things around when the season gets underway. It’s always like this. If someone is doing well or a team that everyone expects to do well, then it’s: “Oh no, we’re definitely not the favourite”,’ Verstappen said, as reported by Autosport. And then a week later, when things do go well, all of a sudden it’s:
Oh no, but we turned it around completely within a week. Not normal, unbelievable work. Thanks to all people in the factory! He also highlighted how Mercedes had concerns prior to last season as he added: ‘They were still very strong during the first race weekend. Verstappen’s view appears to be shared by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was equally unimpressed after Hamilton’s teammate George Russell downplayed Mercedes’ chances of success earlier this week.
Typical Mercedes, typical George – just hype up the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away,’ Sainz said. If it would be the first year they’ve done it then I would maybe believe them but they’ve done it for five or six years now and they keep surprising us in the first race. Looking ahead to how the 2022 season could play out, Verstappen has acknowledged that Ferrari have looked strong in testing, and could pose a threat.
‘They clearly have a stable car at the moment. It just looks good for them, they have had very few problems as well. We will see next week who is fastest, but so far they have had a very good test. The last two years weren’t great for them, so you automatically start looking at this season a bit earlier than some of the other teams. It’s more than normal that they started earlier than us on the 2022 car and that’s OK as well,’ he said.
Despite these promising signs for Ferrari, though, Verstappen has stated that improving cars during the season could be the key difference-maker in the title race. He continued: ‘In the end, with these new cars, the development rate during the season is the most important thing. Verstappen will be looking to add to his solitary Formula One title this year after his dramatic triumph in 2021,
While Hamilton will be aiming to bounce back after falling just short in his bid to move past Michael Schumacher’s record of seven championship wins.