F1: Red Bull's Verstappen gets in shape for new season
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Max Verstappen has disregarded claims from the 2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg that the Dutchman is only beginning to fully understand just how good Lewis Hamilton is on track.
The seven-time world champion comprehensively beat Verstappen and this own Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to the chequered flag in Portugal to open the gap in the standings to eight points heading into round four in Spain.
And Rosberg, the only man to have beaten Hamilton to the title at Mercedes, was vocal all weekend during his role as a Sky Sports F1 pundit during the Portuguese Grand Prix.
The German suggested that Verstappen was making too many errors in Portimao, saying the Dutchman simply could not afford to make mistakes against Hamilton if he has hopes of dethroning the Briton.
“Max had the faster car, which we also saw yesterday in qualifying,” said Rosberg.
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“Max just made more mistakes. You can’t afford that if you want to be world champion against Lewis.
“Everything has to be right, otherwise you don’t stand a chance. They are small mistakes, but they add up. Max still has to find something and avoid these mistakes.”
The Red Bull driver beat Hamilton in Imola, and has been increasing the pressure on seven-time world champions Mercedes all season.
But Rosberg also went on to suggest that Verstappen is finally seeing how good Hamilton is now that they are going wheel-to-wheel for race victories.
“I’m a bit amused because Max Verstappen is starting to understand better and better how good Lewis Hamilton is,” he continued.
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“He needs to do everything perfectly to beat him in the championship and at the moment it’s 2-1 to Lewis.”
Verstappen however dismissed Rosberg’s claims during the post-race press conference, and gave a very blunt response to the suggestion.
“Yeah, I don’t need Nico to make me realise how good Lewis is,” he said.
“I know he’s very good, otherwise you don’t win so many championships.”
Hamilton and Verstappen will go head to head this weekend again as the championship heads to Barcelona on Sunday with Verstappen looking to take over the championship lead for the first time in his career.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton admitted, even though it’s still early in the season, the title race is looking nip and tuck heading into round four.
“It’s very tight, and I saw he had gone in for the fastest lap and got it, but obviously Valtteri ended up with it in the end,” Hamilton explained.
“But as you can see, it’s a great fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, and I’m sure also down the field, and I think it’s clear we’re going to pushing each other until the last race, we’re going to be sick of each other at the end I imagine, or at least sick of racing, because there’s so many races.”
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