Lewis Hamilton and George Russell warned of ‘bad sign’ as title alarm bells ring

Four-time world champion Alain Prost has warned Max Verstappen’s rivals that the calm demeanour and race management he has displayed in 2023 is a “bad sign”, tipping the Dutchman to get the better of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell for years to come.

Verstappen was forced to battle hard with Hamilton for his first-ever F1 World Championship in 2021 with his ruthless and aggressive streaks often on show for the world to see. In 2022 he was much calmer as Red Bull started to dominate their competition.

In 2023, Red Bull have been totally dominant, winning all but one of the 17 races so far and Verstappen has rarely been challenged, taking his performances to another level after cutting through the field to beat team-mate Sergio Perez in style in Miami.

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This culminated in Verstappen clinching his third title with six Grands Prix to spare, sealing the deal during the sprint race in Qatar after Checo collided with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg with the Dutchman sitting pretty in second place. 

Writing in his column for L’Equipe, Prost explained: “Beating the seven-time World Champion gave him confidence and self-assurance. That first title made him stronger. Since then, he has calmed down. Except in his quest for perfection.

“It’s a bad sign for the competition because I don’t see him leaving any time soon. The next two years without regulatory changes won’t do much to change its current strength. And, from 2026, as he is in symbiosis with his team, they’ll be able to rise to the challenge together and at least fight for the title.”

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Prost could, however, sympathise with the frustration facing the Mercedes drivers as they continue to battle for podiums here and there while Verstappen sweeps up race wins week after week.

“When I was driving, the hardest thing for me was always to be excluded from the battle for the Championship. I wanted to fight to the end,” Prost continued. “There’s nothing worse than living through the 1987 or 1991 seasons when the car didn’t allow you to be among the front runners.

“I think that Verstappen is the same and that he will be able to manage his motivation, not because he wants the seven titles of Schumacher or Hamilton, but because he is capable of winning every weekend and will probably stay that way for a few years.”

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