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High aims: Max Verstappen is out to topple Lewis Hamilton

High aims: Max Verstappen is out to topple Lewis Hamilton

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High aims: Max Verstappen is out to topple Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen insists he can beat Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One title, saying Britain's six-time world champion is "not God".

The 22-year-old Dutchman could prove Hamilton's closest challenger this year following Red Bull's strong finish to last season and few changes to the sport's technical rulebook.

Hamilton (35) has dominated F1 in recent times, winning five of the last six Championships, and will this year equal Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven if he secures another triumph.

But asked if he can beat Hamilton over the stretch of a season, Verstappen said: "Yes. Of course, it is very car-dependent in Formula One. Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there. He is not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God.

"When you put pressure on, it is a lot harder for the guy in the lead. If he never has pressure, he can drive at 98 per cent and then you never make mistakes.

"If we start the season within two tenths (of Mercedes), we can mount the pressure. I am looking forward to when we get that fight, and if we are really close I am pretty sure we can do better."

Verstappen resisted the lure of either Mercedes or Ferrari by committing to Red Bull with a four-year contract extension.

Hamilton's next move is uncertain, with his £40m-a-season Mercedes deal set to expire at the end of the year.

"It is a good thing my future is sorted because it takes away doubt," added Verstappen, who won three times last year and was third in the Championship behind Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

"There are no question marks any more. When you go into a season and your contract is up at the end of the year, at one point it is going to be a bit awkward. I didn't want to have any of that.

"This is the right place. I see the motivation and hunger to fight for victories and a Championship. We want to mount a challenge to Mercedes and I think we can do that."

Verstappen's Red Bull boss Christian Horner, meanwhile, has backed the sport to make the right call over whether to cancel the Chinese Grand Prix. The race is due to take place on April 19 but it is in doubt following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Horner said: "I am sure they will take the necessary due diligence before making any commitment about delaying, postponing or cancelling the race."

Belfast Telegraph