Motor racing-F1 champion Verstappen hopes rivals can raise their game

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Dutch Grand Prix - Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands - September 4, 2022 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium with the trophy after winning the Dutch Grand Prix REUTERS/Yves Herman

(Reuters) - Red Bull's Max Verstappen shrugged off a suggestion he was favourite for a third successive Formula One championship and said on Friday the sport needed a closer battle than last year even if he intended to be better than ever.

Verstappen won 15 of 22 races in a 2022 season that was his team's best yet with Mexican team mate Sergio Perez adding two to the tally.

Rivals and runners-up Ferrari won four races and once-dominant Mercedes, third overall, just one.

"As a driver you always try to look at yourself, what can you do better and you try to come back stronger every single year even though sometimes that's a hard task," he told reporters after the team's livery launch in New York.

Asked how keen he was for Mercedes to get back into the fight, with seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton failing to win a race in a season for the first time in his career, Verstappen replied:

"I think in the interests of the sport you always want the teams to be super-close. But I do think it was already quite close last year.

"I think as a team we also really executed a lot of things better than the other teams and that's why I guess the points gap was also so big. I never really felt, apart from two or three races, we absolutely dominated the whole weekend.

"But for the sport everybody wants to have a title battle with multiple teams involved."

Ferrari have changed team bosses since the end of last season with Mattia Binotto replaced by Fred Vasseur, while Mercedes have lost strategy director James Vowles to Williams as new principal.

"I never really think about being the favourite because you have to keep on working, you have to keep on improving because if you're not they will catch up and overtake you," said Verstappen.

"About people leaving other teams, I don't know. It's difficult to say from the outside if it's a good thing or a bad thing, is it going to interrupt their work?

"If new people come in it always takes a little bit of time to settle in ... but I think you can still get a lot of performance out of it straight away."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Motorsport

Motor racing-F1 needs Perez to keep performing at his best
Motor racing-Mercedes targeting big gains says Wolff
Motor racing-Drivers find few positives in 'too slow' Ferrari
Motor racing-F1 needs common sense approach to penalties, says Russell
Motor racing-'I've never seen a car so fast', says Hamilton of Red Bull
Motor racing-Verstappen unhappy to settle for second in Saudi Arabia
Motor racing-Alonso critical of FIA after losing 100th podium
Motor racing-Perez wins in Jeddah as Verstappen goes from 15th to second
Motor racing-Even from 15th, Verstappen remains a big threat
Motor racing-Perez on pole in Saudi Arabia as Verstappen hits trouble