Van der Garde: Max Verstappen can beat Hamilton

Giedo van der Garde
ยฉ XPB 

Former Formula 1 driver Giedo van der Garde believes that his Dutch compatriot Max Verstappen can beat Lewis Hamilton to the title in 2018.

"Hamilton is of course a really good driver, as we saw again this year," van der Garde told Formule 1. "But I think Max can handle him.

Van der Garde took part in 19 Grand Prix races for Caterham F1 in 2013. He was also test and development driver for Sauber F1 in 2014.

However the 32-year-old from Rhenen was never able to enjoy the same break-out success as his countryman. Verstappen became the youngest ever F1 driver in 2015 at the age of 17. He was the first Dutch driver ever to win a Grand Prix in Spain in 2016, and went on to victory twice more this year.

In between those highs, Verstappen went through a tough spell during the first half of this season when Red Bull's performance and reliability was at a low ebb.

โ€œIt has been a tough year for him mentally, but he also knows he can do nothing about it," van der Garde agreed. "It was a pity that the Red Bull was not competitive enough and we could not really see what Max had

He added that the lean spell had only helped toughen up the 20-year-old.

"I think Max grew a lot as a person, because he had to deal with all those disappointments on the track," he said.

"During the second half of the season, Max had a good car again," he continued. "He started winning again from scratch. Then you, of course, enjoy yourself as a Dutch person."

He suggested that the way Verstappen had bounced back to clinch wins in Malaysia and Mexico was proof of how much Verstappen had developed.

"I think he also grew considerably as a driver," van der Garde said. "In qualifying he made an important extra step.

"Max will definitely win a few more wins next year. And who knows he might be in such a good flow and then it will all go so well that he can compete for the championship."

Earlier in the week, van der Garde told Motorsport.com's Dutch site that he had been pleased to see Monisha Kaltenborn ousted from his old squad Sauber.

The pair fell out when he accused the team of reneging on a contract to put him into a race seat for 2015. He said the former team principal had "made a mess of it" at the Swiss outfit.

"From the moment she left, they have only gone the right way," he said. "Thanks to that deal with Alfa Romeo, they are now, of course, Ferrari's B-team. That's nice for them. Yes, I am glad that she is no longer there.

"Frederic Vasseur, the new team boss at Sauber, is a good friend of mine," he added. "He is a capable man who is able to make a good team again. I hope they continue in the right direction."

However he was still no fan of the team's lead driver, Marcus Ericsson. "I don't have a high opinion of him. He occasionally showed good things, but the last race in Abu Dhabi was really bad again."

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