Lewis Hamilton put the pressure on his Mercedes team to close the gap to Red Bull without relying on the runaway leaders weakening.
Red Bull have won all 14 races so far this year. And Verstappen is responsible for 12 of those victories, including each of the last 10 in a remarkable record-breaking winning streak.
The gap between Red Bull and their rivals is significant, and Mercedes are no exception to that. The performance deficit over the last two seasons means Hamilton is without a race win since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
He wants to close the gap, but does not want it to be because Red Bull are weakened in any way. Instead, the seven-time world champion wants his team to continue improving and return to the front of the grid under its own steam.
He told reporters: “I was asked a question earlier, would I rather take Max [Verstappen] out of the equation or take [Red Bull chief technical officer] Adrian Newey out of the equation? And I was like, ‘Neither’. We just have to level up and do a better job.
“They have done an exceptional job. You can’t fault them for the amazing work they are collectively doing and have done. I just want to level up all of us and so but there is a lot of opportunity in these next eight races, just trying to make sure we are prepared to be there if something does happen to be coming our way. We remain hopeful for that.”
Mercedes hope that this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix will suit their cars. Both Hamilton and George Russell were in the top six after both practice sessions on Friday, in an encouraging sign for what might be to come.