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Max Verstappen

Hill names 'really shocking' prospect ahead of Japanese GP

Ferrari took full advantage of Red Bull's troubles in Australia and 1996 world champion Damon Hill does not think it will be long before the team can beat Verstappen in a direct battle.

Sainz Verstappen Australia
To news overview © XPBimages

Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill has stated it would be “really shocking” for the sport if Ferrari challenges Red Bull in Japan this weekend.

Ferrari emerged victorious last time out in Melbourne with Carlos Sainz, leading a team one-two across the line.

Its prospects of a victory, however, were boosted when Max Verstappen was forced to retire from the race in the early laps due to a brake issue.

Red Bull has enjoyed unrivalled success over the last 12 months and is again the favourite for the titles this year despite its hiccup in Australia.

With the fourth round of the campaign taking place around the famous Suzuka circuit, Hill expects Verstappen will take another pole position but hinted the race could be more difficult for him.

“I think this is going to be a big test for the competition against Red Bull at Suzuka,” 1996 champion Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.

“I think this is really going to test the aero efficiency, tyre wear efficiency in the car as well.

“But Ferrari is quick in a straight line, and it is a lot of straight line, a lot of high-speed stuff in Suzuka, and what I really hope is that Ferrari can take the race to Red Bull during the actual race itself.

“I think qualifying will still see Max on pole by probably a similar amount, two-tenths, maybe three-tenths or something like that.”

Ferrari 'getting close' to challenging Red Bull

Ferrari was confident it would have been in contention for the race win in Australia without Verstappen's terminal problem.

Hill outlined that the upcoming race weekend is a chance to prove its theory right.

“But you have to say, the question is always going to be asked, did they win in Melbourne because Max broke down?” he asked

“We’ll never know the answer – so we need to get them to beat Max in a straight race.

“Once that happens, and I think they’re getting close – I think we’re getting close to that.

“And that may be wishful thinking on my part, not because I don’t want Max to win anything, I just want to see some racing, and I want to see a championship open up.

“But if they do, wow, that would be really shocking for the whole of Formula 1, because it means that something can be done about this Red Bull runaway.”

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