F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Nelson Piquet is the latest former driver to weigh in on the Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton debate, concluding it’s “very difficult to make a direct comparison between two drivers if they are not on the same team” but believes the Dutchman would “smash Hamilton” if Mercedes rolled the dice to sign the Red Bull star.
The three-time former Formula One champion, who won titles in 1981, 1983 and 1987, was speaking after the Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen come down to the final few laps.
On older tyres, Hamilton held on to the lead in the opening race of the season, but had Verstappen reeling him on fresher tyres during the closing stages of the race.
The Dutchman eventually sent one past the seven-time world champion to take the lead – only to be told to hand it back by race control or face a potential investigation for track limits, and subsequently a penalty from the stewards.
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Hamilton was victorious, despite Red Bull being the fastest car all weekend, leaving many, including Piquet, hopeful of a great rivalry this season between the two.
Piquet told Motorsport.com: “It’s not that Hamilton isn’t good. But he has an inferior driver by his side and the previous one [Rosberg] was even worse. He [Rosberg] won because it was a year where Hamilton had crashes and DNFs.
“We have to consider that F1 is a category with different cars, so it’s very difficult to make a direct comparison between two drivers if they are not on the same team. But if Max were driving for Mercedes, I’m sure that he would smash Hamilton.
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“Max is more aggressive. He may make mistakes more frequently due to this aggressiveness, but in my opinion he’s better than Hamilton. Things are too easy for Hamilton to win it all with Bottas by his side as a second driver.
“It’s a little bit like Mansell and myself in Williams, with the other drivers far behind. I won the 1987 championship, and I wasn’t driving like before, because I had the accident at the beginning of the year and had field depth problems. But I won that championship, with a bit of luck. I should have won in 1986, but won in 1987.
“But it was so easy. The car was far better than the others. And Mercedes is far better than the others for the past years.”
His son, former Formula E champion and F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr, also backed Verstappen, saying he is “coming with a knife between his teeth.”
He added: “I think we have to consider two things: Lewis’ experience and Max’s desire. Lewis has been in F1 for 15 seasons and I think that, little by little, you start to lose that desire. On the other hand, Max is coming with a knife between his teeth.
“Lewis has already won seven championships, so he comes with another type of ‘fire’. And that can make a difference.”
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