Max Verstappen (left) believes he can beat six-time champion Lewis Hamilton this season. Picture: REUTERS
Max Verstappen (left) believes he can beat six-time champion Lewis Hamilton this season. Picture: REUTERS

Max Verstappen believes he can thwart Lewis Hamilton's bid for a seventh Formula One title this season if Red Bull give him the tools to do the job.

The 22-year-old Dutch driver won three races last year, finishing third overall in the championship, and is not about to be awed by anyone's reputation — even if that person is possibly the greatest driver of all time.

"It's very car-dependent of course in Formula One," Verstappen told reporters at a Red Bull team media event on Monday.

"Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there, but he's not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God."

Hamilton, 35, is chasing several records this season including Michael Schumacher's 91 race wins and seven titles, and has won five of the last six championships with dominant Mercedes.

"We really want to mount a challenge to especially Mercedes and I think we can do that," said Verstappen, who last month signed a contract extension to the end of 2023 and has a new English trainer and physio for 2020.

He said the new contract had taken away the hassle of being asked all the time about his future, removing another potential distraction.

Verstappen suggested Hamilton could be vulnerable if put under sustained pressure, with the Briton having singled out Verstappen already last year as someone he gave more space to because of his aggressive reputation.

"I'm very much looking forward to it, everybody's fired up and everybody's very motivated. Coming off last year, at the end, we were very competitive," said the Dutch driver.

Team boss Christian Horner said Red Bull, who use Honda engines, would be helped by stable regulations and were looking to apply the lessons learned from 2019 to take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari.

The new car will have its first track shakedown behind closed doors at Silverstone on February 12, with Verstappen and Thai team mate Alexander Albon starting pre-season testing in Barcelona on February 19.

"Honda did such a great job, each introduction of an engine last year brought more performance and more power and it feels we're getting very, very close now to Mercedes," said Horner, whose team were third overall in 2019.

"That therefore puts the emphasis on the chassis side of the team ... going into this year we feel better prepared, earlier, than we have certainly in the last five years."

Reuters


Pepper wins for SA in Australia

SA’s Jordan Pepper (centre) on the Bathurst winner’s podium with teammates Jules Gunon and Maxime Soulet. Picture: SUPPLIED
SA’s Jordan Pepper (centre) on the Bathurst winner’s podium with teammates Jules Gunon and Maxime Soulet. Picture: SUPPLIED

SA’s Jordan Pepper won Sunday’s Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia, the opening round of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Sharing a Bentley Continental GT3 with Frenchman Jules Gunon and Belgian Maxime Soulet, Pepper and his teammates overcame a troubled Friday to qualify tenth but the Bentley was soon fighting for the lead, before taking a dramatic victory just as the heavens opened on the Mount Panorama circuit.

McLaren finished second overall — some 41sec behind the Bentley — while Mercedes-AMG completed the podium.

The five-round Intercontinental GT Challenge concludes at Kyalami’s 9 Hour in November.


Formula E calls off Chinese race due to coronavirus

Formula E is cancelling its round in the Chinese city of Sanya due to the coronavirus. Picture: REUTERS
Formula E is cancelling its round in the Chinese city of Sanya due to the coronavirus. Picture: REUTERS

The all-electric Formula E series has abandoned plans for a race in the Chinese city of Sanya next month because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The sport said in a statement on Sunday that it would continue to work with its regional partner and local authorities "to study the viability of potential alternative dates should the situation improve".

The race had been scheduled for March 21 in the coastal resort in Hainan province.

The outbreak of the flu-like virus has killed more than 300 people and infected more than 14,000 in China after it first emerged in Wuhan in Hubei province late last year.

The Chinese Grand Prix is set to be discussed by Formula One this week amid speculation the April 19 Shanghai race could join a growing list of sporting events hit by the coronavirus.

The grand prix is scheduled as the fourth round of what would be a record 22-race season.