Max Verstappen hails Lewis Hamilton as ‘one of the best ever’ as duo prepare for close F1 championship battle after thrilling opening race duel in Bahrain
- Lewis Hamilton pipped Max Verstappen to victory in the first race of the season
- The world champion produced a stunning drive to fend off Dutchman in Bahrain
- Duo are now expected to go head-to-head for the world title this season
Max Verstappen has hailed Lewis Hamilton as one of Formula One’s greatest ever drivers as he prepares to go toe-to-toe with the Brit for this year’s world championship.
Hamilton has dominated the sport since 2014 with Mercedes, winning the title every year bar 2016 which has left him tied with Michael Schumacher on seven world championships heading into the 2021 season.
But Verstappen and his Red Bull team have shown early promise to take the fight to Hamilton and the Silver Arrows this term after a gripping season opener in Bahrain saw the duo fight for victory right up until the flag before the world champion emerged victorious.
Max Verstappen (right) has hailed Lewis Hamilton (left) as one of Formula One’s greatest stars
The Dutchman has now recognised the 36-year-old as one of the legends of the sport as they look to battle again next weekend when the second round of the 23-race season gets underway at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
He told Autosport: ‘Man, you know it’s super hard, but of course you have to give credit to Lewis.
‘[For] the way he has dealt with all the years, to always come back and be honoured and win that amount of races and championships. You definitely cannot go around Lewis.
The Dutchman is hoping to take a drivers’ championship battle to Hamilton this season
The pari went wheel-to-wheel battling for victory at the season opening race in Bahrain
‘But, of course, there are still a lot of other people in F1, I think who are very good, very strong, and would have been very good in that car as well.
‘But still, of course, the way Lewis has won and also sometimes in tricky races – like last year in Turkey, to win that race, I think he did very well. Yeah, definitely he is one of the best ever in F1.’
Red Bull had looked the faster car over the Sakhir weekend but a supreme performance from Hamilton saw him fend off a late charge from Verstappen with an excellent defensive drive.
It produced one of the sport’s most exciting races in recent seasons following the Brit’s domination and he admits he hopes for more of the same this year, hinting his team-mate Valtteri Bottas could also challenge for success.
But it was Hamilton who came out on top as the pair greet each other on the podium
Hamilton is looking to win a record eighth world championship this season
He said: ‘I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited. I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time.
‘Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of the pace they have.
‘They could be ahead a lot more, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and stay close in this battle and I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri.’
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