Hamilton determined to keep Verstappen off his turf

© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton has lavished praise upon the mercurial Max Verstappen, but the four-time world champion is determined to keep the Red Bull charger off the highest step of the podium.

The Mercedes driver has no doubts about his young rival's potential after witnessing first hand his outstanding achievements to date in F1.

Hamilton admits Verstappen - the youngest driver ever to start a Grand Prix at just 17 and to win a race at just 18 - is already further ahead than every other driver on the grid was at the same age, including himself.

Winning a world championships in the future is a highly likely prospect for the Dutchman, but equaling Hamilton's track record is another challenge altogether, according to the Brit.

"I think it is very difficult to say, he definitely has the potential to be a world champion as we've all seen that and that is why he has such a great following," said Hamilton in Barcelona.

"We've seen the way he drives and he has great potential and is in a great team. I think he is in the perfect place to continue growing.

"He has a long time ahead of him even with a good few seasons under his belt. I still hadn't even had my first season at 21 so he is even further ahead than me and a lot of the drivers."

Regardless of where his future path will take him, Verstappen will have a massive task on his hands as long as Hamilton has anything to say about it.

"While I'm here I am going to be doing what I can to stop him winning," insists the 33-year-old Mercedes driver.

"People won't particularly love that but that is what we are here to do, we are here to battle and I am looking forward to having some really positive battles with him -- hopefully this year."

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