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Max Verstappen responds to Lewis Hamilton’s early title warning at F1 pre-season testing


Max Verstappen has insisted that he does not pay attention to pre-season lap times after Lewis Hamilton topped the standings in the final session of this week’s three-day test in Barcelona. The 37-year-old edged George Russell in a Mercedes one-two at the top of the order on Friday to cap off an intriguing three-day period in which all 10 teams put their new cars through their paces at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Another three-day test will follow in Bahrain next month before the competitive action gets underway at the same circuit after a week’s break.

Mercedes were among the better performers over the course of the three-day event in Barcelona, while Ferrari and McLaren also turned plenty of heads with their impressive showings.

Red Bull also enjoyed a relatively strong week of their own and raised no shortage of eyebrows as a result of their unique and innovative sidepod design.

They were unable to prevent Hamilton and Mercedes from setting the quickest times on Friday, though, with the 37-year-old laying down an early marker with a scintillating lap in the final hour of the afternoon session.

Verstappen has since declared that he does not lose any sleep over pre-season results and would rather wait until next month’s Bahrain Grand Prix before forming his judgement on the strength of his team and their rivals.

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“Everything worked well in the running we got and the car felt good,” said the Dutchman when quizzed on Red Bull’s early showings in Barcelona.

“Our morning was somewhat interrupted by a number of red flags across the session so we couldn’t complete all of our planned programme [but] what is positive is that the car is running smoothly.

“I don’t pay attention to the lap times just yet, I will look into that when we get into Q3 in Bahrain.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Verstappen will be able to defend his Drivers’ Championship title from Hamilton when the competitive action gets underway in Bahrain next month.

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The Mercedes driver will also be forced to deal with the additional threat of Russell, who will be looking to push his new team-mate all the way over the course of his debut campaign with the Silver Arrows.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner insisted on Friday that Hamilton could easily be caught out by Russell if he underestimates the 24-year-old’s ability to throw a spanner in the works between now and the end of the season.

“I think it won’t be a battle just between Max and Lewis,” Horner told The Times.

“Certainly early on, I think there’s a few other drivers that are going to come into play.

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“George Russell’s going to play a key role. Ferrari are looking in good shape, McLaren look like they’ve got a competitive car.

“There could be some more dynamics thrown into the mix, which ultimately is better for the sport.

“I think Lewis is going to be massively motivated, I think he’s going to have more competition internally as well.

“He’s got a hungry, competitive young team-mate who is going to be snapping at his ankles. Life is not going to be getting easier for him, that’s for sure.”





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