Few would argue against Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen as two of the premier Formula 1 drivers on the grid today. While the former has proven himself time and time again by winning seven world titles, the latter is still chasing his first. Verstappen has become synonymous with Red Bull, but so far the Austrian team have been unable to bring an end to Mercedes’ dominance.
As a result there have been suggestions that Verstappen’s best chance at reaching that highest step is by joining Mercedes, but that won’t be happening as long as Hamilton is driving the Silver Arrows.
Sure, having two number one drivers at the same team would make for some exciting racing. You only have to think back to Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, or more recently, Nico Rosberg and Hamilton. However that is one of the main reasons why Mercedes won’t be going for that approach. The rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg got so heated in 2016, when the German constructor took the title, that they regularly took each other out and thus hurt the team. Verstappen himself benefitted from one of those instances in Spain, taking his first Formula 1 victory.
As a result it’s unlikely Mercedes will make that mistake again. When Hamilton joined the team in 2013 he was good friends with Rosberg and nobody could have predicted what the push for the ultimate prize would do to their relationship. It’s the risk a team takes when bringing two strong characters together, a scenario that would likely repeat if Verstappen were brought into the fold with Hamilton. Given Mercedes have dominated the sport with Hamilton leading the team, having a traditional number two driver in Valtteri Bottas is the way to go.
Verstappen and Verstappen want it
While speaking with Formula 1 Magazine, Jos Verstappen made it clear that he would like to see Hamilton and son Max on the same team, whether it be Mercedes, Red Bull or one of the other constructors. The thought of beating the Mercedes man no doubt intrigues the elder Verstappen, but Max is tied down to Red Bull for the foreseeable future. The team opened the door for the youngster to join F1, and the father and son duo appear to be committed to Red Bull’s resurgence as a title challenger.
Could Hamilton join Verstappen at Red Bull? It’s an unlikely scenario. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has stated in the past that Mercedes want the best driver and Hamilton wants the best car available to him. With the Silver Arrows once again expected to lead the pack in 2021, it would appear the pairing will continue their partnership for the foreseeable future with the Brit likely retiring with the team.
As for Max, he’s made it clear he won’t back down from a fight.
“I’m sure I can beat him,” he once said. A sign that he is ready to take on the challenge of usurping Formula 1’s current leader.
A better alternative to Verstappen?
Another factor has been added to the mix in recent months. His name: George Russell. The young Williams driver has shown that he’s more than capable of driving for a top team, with his current car the only thing holding back. The Brit made the most of his opportunity with Mercedes last season when Hamilton was forced to watch the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain on TV after contracting coronavirus. Russell looked to be on his way to victory only for Mercedes to snatch it away by making a rare mistake and fitting his car with the wrong tires.
Wolff has already said that Mercedes aren’t done with Russell just yet, leaving the door open for the Brit to join the team in the future. While Verstappen has often been mentioned as the ideal candidate to replace Hamilton at Mercedes when he does retire, Russell has thrown that assessment into question as his performance has added another variable into the equation.
As a result it looks as though Verstappen is destined to remain at Red Bull for the foreseeable future. Ferrari have started their rebuild and likely won’t challenge this season, and it remains to be seen whether the Scuderia has forgotten Max’s comments about their engine back in 2019. Thus Verstappen and Hamilton look destined to battle each other on the track on different teams, a scenario that will give Formula 1 fans more than enough to chew on.