Hamilton opens up on plans to remain in F1 ahead of new season
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Max Verstappen chose to overlook long-time rival Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez when picking his dream driver pairing ahead of the new Formula One season, which is finally set to get underway next week. The Dutchman will go into the campaign with the aim of winning his third Drivers’ Championship title in as many years after cruising to the end-of-season honours at the last time of asking without too much difficulty.
Verstappen will be putting Red Bull’s all-new RB19 through its paces at this week’s three-day pre-season test in Bahrain alongside Perez, who has played a major role in helping his team-mate to realise his full potential over the last two years. The Mexican driver was snubbed by Verstappen when the latter was asked to come up with a dream driver pairing by Mobil 1, though, while he also had no room for Hamilton in his ideal fantasy F1 team.
The 25-year-old instead chose Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris as his two drivers, explaining that he wanted to strike a balance between proven title-winning experience and raw young talent.
“I find it really hard [to pick] the drivers, because I think there are a lot of good drivers,” said Verstappen. “I think I would probably go for an experienced one, so I would go for Fernando. Then I would take a young guy and I would put Lando in the car, so Fernando and Lando.”
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Verstappen was also asked to choose a team principal to oversee his dream F1 team and did not hesitate in picking Red Bull boss Christian Horner, adding: “Of the current people who are capable of being a team principal, I would always go for Christian.”
It was no real surprise to see Verstappen overlook Hamilton given the intensity of their heated on-track rivalry, which reached boiling point in 2021 after turning bitter on several occasions. The Dutchman of course managed to beat Hamilton to the Drivers’ Championship honours on the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a race which has since gone down as arguably the most controversial in F1 history.
However, many would have been expecting Verstappen to include Perez in his dream pairing in recognition of his team-mate’s efforts in helping him to achieve his two titles in 2021 and 2022. The 33-year-old has regularly played the team game at Red Bull in order to make Verstappen’s job easier, with Horner suggesting earlier this month that Perez may need to adopt a supporting role once again over the course of the upcoming season.
“The form that Max has been in means he is the man to beat,” the Red Bull team principal told Auto Motor und Sport. “He’s the reigning world champion and Checo has to strive for that, otherwise why is he competing?
“I think the reality is that, in all probability, Max over the season is likely to be the [better] candidate for the world championship but Checo has the capability to be right there. We need both drivers performing at the best of their ability for the Constructors’ Championship.
“Checo knows exactly what is expected from him, and being Max’s teammate is a pretty daunting prospect for any driver.”
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