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Verstappen plays down Mercedes, Hamilton 2023 F1 threat

Max Verstappen has offered his assessment of rival teams as he bids for a third F1 crown in 2023.

Max Verstappen believes that the competitiveness of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will depend on whether or not the Brackley team has understood their 2022 issues. Verstappen dominated the 2022 season, taking a record-breaking 15 Grand Prix wins as he wrapped up his second successive title, hauling 454 points in the process - also a new F1 record. The Red Bull driver's main rival from 2021, Lewis Hamilton, endured the worst season of his long career, failing to a win a Grand Prix for the first time and finished a career-worst sixth in the Drivers.' This was in part down to the Mercedes W13 having a fundamental floor problem, which was originally masked by porpoising. Mercedes are adamant that they will be able to get back in the fight with Red Bull, and Ferrari, over the course of 2023 as Hamilton seeks his eighth World Championship, but Verstappen is not concerned.

Verstappen not concerned by Mercedes

"It is difficult to say [where Mercedes will be] as at the end of [last] year, sometimes it looked like they had it together, sometimes not," the Dutchman told media, including RacingNews365.com , at the livery launch of the RB19. "From my side, it is difficult to say because I am not part of the team if they have fully understood everything but I guess we will find out this year if they did fully understand everything they wanted to improve on the car. "For sure, they will be a main rival, but I also think Ferrari will be strong, but how strong is difficult to say, but Mercedes have shown over the last few years that they've always been really strong and they have a good group of people as well. "But I trust my people in Milton Keynes, that they have built a very strong car, together with our engine as well, and I hope we have a strong package against them."

Not thinking of the title

Should Verstappen win the 2023 title, he will become just the fifth driver in F1 history to claim a championship hat-trick - with Hamilton on that particular list. The 25-year-old would emulate Juan Manuel Fangio (1954-1957), Michael Schumacher (2000-2004), Sebastian Vettel (2010-13) and Hamilton (2017-2020) in claiming three or more on the bounce, but he is more focused on the team delivering a good car. "We will work hard as a team to try and make sure that we have a chance to fight for it again," he said. "But only time will tell. I'm not even thinking about these things at the moment, because it is more important that we just focus on having a competitive car. "And if we have a competitive car, then these things can happen, but it is more important for us now that we just make sure that the car is running well with no issues - and that it is quick at the end of the day."

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix - Free Practice 2