Verstappen gives 'credit' to Hamilton, where credit is due

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Max Verstappen has labeled Lewis Hamilton as "one of the very best in Formula 1", a credit the Red Bull driver extends to his rival for the Briton's outstanding track record in the sport.

Hamilton and Verstappen went head-to-head in the opening race of the 2021 season in Bahrain, an all-out battle that augurs well for fans this season as Red Bull appears to have put on its rails a car capable of breaking Mercedes' stronghold on the world title since 2014 and the advent of the hybrid era.

Few would dispute that Hamilton's record 96 wins in the sport and seven championships put the 36-year-old mega star in the pantheon of F1's all-time greats.

But his closest rival says that an ability to deliver the goods race in and race out, and sometimes in tricky conditions, also warrant his presence among the sport's very best in its history.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in qualifying parc ferme with Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. 28.11.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Bahrain Grand Prix

"The way he has dealt with all the years, to always come back and be honoured and win that amount of races and championships. You definitely cannot go around Lewis," said Verstappen in an interview with Autosport.

"But, of course, there are still a lot of other people in Formula 1, I think who are very good, very strong, and would have been very good in that car as well.

"But still, of course, the way Lewis has won and also sometimes in tricky races - like last year in Turkey, to win that race, I think he did very well.

"Yeah, definitely he is one of the best ever in Formula 1."

Verstappen has been among F1's top tier drivers since 2016 and his in-season switch from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, a move the Dutchman celebrated on his first outing with the Milton Keynes-based outfit at Barcelona by winning his maiden Grand Prix.

Since that memorable day, Verstappen enjoyed many on-track battles with Hamilton and been a keen observer of his rival's skills. But the 23-year-old has never felt inclined to imitate his opponent.

"I don't look at it like that," he said. "I first look at what I could have done better or different - [after] every single race.

"I do watch other people and review stuff, but I am not someone who copies. I'm myself.

"Because if you copy stuff from others, you're always going to be behind first of all - because you're not innovating and becoming better than them.

"Of course you can just look at it, you can observe it. But at the end of the day, I'm myself and I think that works the best for me - to be myself."

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