Max Verstappen ready for title fight, say Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel
Multi-world champions wary of Verstappen in F1 2019 - but will Red Bull-Honda deliver?; Every race live on Sky F1 in 2019
Last Updated: 31/12/18 3:32pm
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel believe Max Verstappen has proved he is ready to challenge for the title in 2019, so long as the Red Bull-Honda package delivers.
Verstappen finished fourth in the standings in F1 2018, his fourth F1 season, but largely overdelivered in the Renault-powered Red Bull and was only outscored by eventual world champion Hamilton in the second half of the campaign.
Red Bull are expecting an improved performance from their Honda engines in 2019, and multi-world champions Hamilton and Vettel are braced for a challenge from the 21-year-old Verstappen.
"Max has been driving very well throughout the year and has shown his consistency and has been up here many, many times with us," said Hamilton.
"So if his team does the job and delivers a platform with which he can compete even closer with us, then of course he'll be in the fight."
Points scored in final 11 races of 2018
|1. Lewis Hamilton||245 points|
|2. Max Verstappen||156 points|
|3. Sebastian Vettel||149 points|
|4. Valtteri Bottas||143 points|
Vettel continued: "On the track, I don't think he needs any advice. I think he's got all the ingredients. I think there's a couple of guys out there who have these qualities and Max is certainly one of them.
"I think we've seen that. I also remember from my time, it's important to have a competitive package throughout the season and Red Bull are certainly very, very strong and I think they put more performance to their car than any other team across the year
"Max and Daniel [Ricciardo] have proven that they can be very, very quick and very consistent so I'm sure [we'll see] more of him."
Is Max ready?
When posed with the question after Verstappen dominated the field to take his second victory of the season in Mexico, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said the Dutchman was "absolutely" ready to battle for championships.
And Max agreed.
"I think I can because I've almost done four seasons now, and Lewis, for example, was fighting for a championship in his first season," Verstappen stated.
F1 in 2019: Schedule and line-ups
The all-important race calendar, winter testing dates and driver line-ups for the next Formula 1 season.
"Are you ready for it? You're not sure. Was he? Maybe yes, maybe not. But once you have that car underneath you, you are definitely going for it.
"I think it's never 100 per cent clear whether somebody's ready or not, but once you have that car you're going to drive it as fast as you can and if it's the fastest car on the grid you're normally winning races or you are second."
As Verstappen explains, much of that comes down to the tools at his disposal.
He added: "Even if we have a winning package, for sure there will be weekends where maybe you make a mistake, or it can be a better weekend overall. Hopefully first we'll have that package."
Get the dedicated Sky Sports F1 channel - the exclusive home of all F1 next season - for £18 a month in HD with no contract. Get Sky Sports F1.