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Max Verstappen poses for a portrait during Red Bull Racing 2024 Season Launch RB20 in London, UK on January 30, 2024 // Will Cornelius / Content Pool // SI202402140473 // Usage for editorial use only //

Verstappen: Hamilton’s last year with Mercedes… awkward

Max Verstappen poses for a portrait during Red Bull Racing 2024 Season Launch RB20 in London, UK on January 30, 2024 // Will Cornelius / Content Pool // Verstappen: Hamilton's last year with Mercedes awkward// Usage for editorial use only //

Red Bull’s triple Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen expects his old rival Lewis Hamilton to have an awkward last season at Mercedes before the seven-times world champion switches to rivals Ferrari for 2025.

The Dutch 26-year-old, chasing his fourth successive title this season, told reporters at the launch of Red Bull’s new car on Thursday that the Briton would be in a “weird” situation: “To announce something that big that early in the season, I think for sure for the rest of the year is…a little bit awkward.

“Even though you have had a lot of success together as a team, you can’t be included into everything any more. For sure he has a great relationship with everyone, especially also with (team boss) Toto (Wolff), but he also knows at one point and Toto for sure will tell him ‘I’m really sorry, we’ve had all this success but you can’t be part of certain meetings any more’.

“That’s normal in F1. It’s probably a bit weird. But you are professional enough to deal with that,” explained Verstappen.

Hamilton has won six of his titles with Mercedes and has a close relationship with Austrian Wolff as well as other senior personnel.

The 39-year-old Briton’s move to Ferrari, on a multi-year deal and taking the place of Carlos Sainz alongside Charles Leclerc, surprised the sport when it was announced this month. Teammate George Russell will now represent continuity at Mercedes and be privy to those meetings that Hamilton is excluded from.

Verstappen said Mercedes would still be doing all they could for Hamilton: “It’s just you know at one point you can’t share certain stuff. But once he’s sitting in the car they will of course go flat out for him.”

Max: At the moment I am very happy where I’m at

Max Verstappen poses for a portrait during Red Bull Racing 2024 Season Launch RB20 in London, UK on January 30, 2024 // Will Cornelius / Content Pool // SI202402140480 // Usage for editorial use only //

Asked whether he was excited by the prospect of going up against a Ferrari driven by Hamilton, Verstappen replied: “If the car is quick enough, yeah. You don’t know. Also from our side.”

Verstappen said he had a lot of respect for the Italian team but his dream was to win races: “At the moment I am very happy where I’m at, so I don’t see myself leaving at the moment.”

The Dutch ace won a record 19 of 22 races last season, the most dominant ever with Red Bull claiming victory in every race apart from Singapore where Sainz won.

He said the new car was definitely better and the team were happy with what they had done but it remained to be seen how much rivals had improved.

Asked whether he might be able to win all the races in 2024, Verstappen said he would just approach it one race at a time: “Maybe one day it’s possible, I don’t know. I don’t even think about it because even last year I never thought that this was possible. It’s really difficult to know how quick we are going to be.”

Verstappen also said he had “no clue” who might represent Red Bull’s biggest threat and there had been no distraction from a company inquiry into the conduct of principal Christian Horner. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)