Max Verstappen reacts to Honda’s departure from Formula 1
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Max Verstappen and Red Bull have what it takes to beat Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes this season, but they’ll need to produce a “perfect season” to do it.
That’s the view of former F1 world champion Jenson Button, who gave his assessment on the current season, and the rivalry that dominates the sharp end of the F1 grid.
While Mercedes have had it mostly their own way in recent years, Red Bull took to the track at the start of the 2021/22 season looking much closer to the German team, both in terms of speed and consistency.
Indeed, Verstappen is the only driver to achieve podium finishes in each of the five Grands Prix so far this season.
The flying Dutchman’s victories at Imola and Monaco, combined with his three second-place finishes at Bahrain, Portimao and Barcelona, mean that he holds a one-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship heading to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku next weekend.
Max Verstappen needs a ‘perfect season’ to defeat Lewis Hamilton this year (Image: GETTY)
Speaking to Planet F1 before Verstappen’s victory in Monaco, Button said the margin between Mercedes and Red Bull is much slimmer this season, but admitted he had a degree of sympathy for Verstappen as he takes on Hamilton with little-to-no margin for error in the title race.
“It has. I kind of feel for Max a little bit, and Red Bull,” he said.
“There have been a couple of opportunities where they've kind of thrown away big points, you know?
“He's just put a wheel a centimetre over the line and lost a qualifying lap or lost a position in Bahrain.
“But those are the rules, you've got to stay within the white lines and they've just pushed it a bit too far.
“But I'm hoping it's going to be a close season.
“Obviously Lewis has won the last couple but Max has been his biggest competitor and he's been close to him.
“I do think they can challenge him, but it literally needs to be the perfect season for Red Bull, it really does.”
Despite the tough task ahead of Verstappen and Red Bull, Button said the combination of the Dutchman’s racing talent and Red Bull’s drive and determination as a team offers a potentially winning formula that, by the end of the season, could prevail.
“To go up against Lewis and Mercedes, the powerhouse, they've been around for a long time fighting for championships, they don't really put a foot wrong,” he admitted.
“So it's tough for them, but if anyone can do it, Red Bull and Max can do it.”
Button also hailed Hamilton for how he has used his platform as one of the biggest stars in sport to become a big voice for social change.
“He has come a long way, he really has,” he explained.
“He had a lot of insecurities in the past with racing, I remember the time he thought I'd unfollowed him on social media when we were team-mates – ‘Oh, I thought we were better friends than this. Jenson has just unfollowed me’ – and then he posted again saying ‘Sorry, Jenson never actually followed me.’
“But I'm actually really impressed with how far Lewis has come, he's got a massive following, he's going to have a massive following, he's a seven-time world champion and is going to achieve more than possibly any F1 driver has this year in F1, and he's using it for good, and I like to see that.
“Whether other people have pushed him in this direction I don't know, but I really like what he's doing and he seems this year to be a very different Lewis to what we've seen before.
“I still think there were insecurities but this year he seems so much more relaxed and it's great to see. He has really used his voice for good.”
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