Lewis Hamilton finally has his new contract announced this weekend in Monza by Mercedes. However it falls well short of the expectations raised by a leak from his management team as reported in January 2023 by French sports business publication Sportune.
Hamilton has already been on the defensive explaining his two year deal, which was expected to be longer, is an intermediate step and he is “looking forward to the next contract”.
Hamilton claims Max faced weaker competition
Meanwhile the niggle between Mercedes and Red Bull stepped up a notch as Lewis Hamilton claimed his arch Dutch rival has not faced the same quality of team mate that Mercedes have put up against the seven times world champion.
“In my personnel opinion Valtteri – in fact all my team mates have been stronger than the team mates that Max has had,” Hamilton boldly claimed.
“Jenson, Fernando, George, Valterri… Nico… I’ve had so many. I mean these guys are all very very strong and consistent. Max has not raced against anyone like that,” insisted the ex F1 world champion.
Toto Wolff joined the anti Red Bull party by questioning whether Sergio Perez was being given a fair crack at the whip and questioned the 1.3 second gap between the Mexican driver and Verstappen last time out in qualifying.
Wolff accuses Red Bull
“Checo’s not an idiot,” observed the Mercedes boss. “We have seen in all these years Checo is a Grand Prix winner, multiple Grand Prix winner, and he was at Racing Point, so I cannot comprehend.”
“We’ve seen that Max has destroyed every single team-mate that was with him, whether it’s his ability to create a car around himself, that is just very tricky to control but fast if you can, and that creates those gaps. But I haven’t heard any obvious explanations. But yeah, odd.”
Wolff believes Red Bull have designed a car around Verstappen which explains the disparity between him and his team mates performance.
Max Verstappen responded angrily calling the Mercedes’ boss comments “BULLSHIT” admitting the RB19 had been difficult to learn to drive to its full potential.
Horner mocks Toto’s “lack of understanding”
Now Christian Horner joins his star driving and accuses Toto Wolff of ‘failing to understand’ how a race car is developed.
“Well, I think I completely agree with Max,” the Red Bull chief said. “It shows a total lack of understanding of how a race car and team develop if Toto thinks that we’re developing a car around a single driver.
“You develop a car to be as quick as you can and sometimes quick cars are difficult cars. That’s what has historically been the case,” said Horner.
In potential dig at Sergio Perez who again crashed his RB19 at the high speed Parabolica final turn in Monza free practice two, Horner agreed that Verstappen had been forced to relearn how to drive this year’s car and has proven his outstanding skills behind the wheel.
Verstappen “elite” says Red Bull boss
“The good drivers adapt, you see in wet conditions, mixed, varied, conditions – the elite adapt quickly, and I think that one of his key skill sets is his ability to adapt to the feeling and the grip levels that a car gives him.
“But there’s certainly no direction to say oh, we tailor something to suit one specific driver. We’re just trying to design and build the fastest car that we can, and our tools, our simulation, and our wind tunnel, provide us with that direction.”
Verstappen confirmed he does not instruct the technical design team to build him a car with specific characteristics but rather adapts the car he’s given to perform in the way he likes to drive.
“It’s not like that. I mean, I just drive the car I get to the fastest way possible. I’m not there to tell the guys to give me more front-end, because that’s how I like it,” reiterated the world champion.
“I’ll just say ‘Design me the fastest car, and I’ll drive around that.’ Every single year it’s just different, every car drives a little bit different. People will say what is your driving style? My driving style is not something particular, I adapt to what I need for the car to go quick.”
F1 records tumble before Verstappen
Whilst the RB19 has been attributed to the remarkable season Verstappen is putting together and should he win this weekend in Italy he will become the all time record holder by claiming ten consecutive F1 victories in a row.
Red Bull too have beaten the record held by McLaren since 1988 by winning 14 races in a row before Monza and now target the almost impossible, to win every race in the 2023 season.
Verstappen was top of the time sheets in practice two in Monza and despite Norris downplaying the Mclaren MCL60 characteristics at the cathedral of speed, he placed his car in third behind Charles Leclerc.
Ferrari are desperate for a good home Grand Prix having won in Monza just twice in the past seventeen years. The Monegasque driver was a fraction behind Verstappen in FP2, though the Ferrari cars may have been running a higher engine mode in an attempt to deliver hope for their huge support from the Tifosi.
— A¹¹ (@perstappen_) September 1, 2023