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Hamilton keeping a wary eye on "title-runner" Verstappen

Hamilton keeping a wary eye on "title-runner" Verstappen

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Hamilton keeping a wary eye on "title-runner" Verstappen

Hamilton keeping a wary eye on "title-runner" Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton has no doubt Max Verstappen is firmly in the hunt for this year's Formula 1 world title.

After retiring in the season-opening race in Austria when running second, Verstappen has since reeled off a run of five successive podium finishes - including victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone - to trail Hamilton in the drivers' standings by 37 points.

Dismissing suggestions Red Bull and Verstappen are doing nothing more than sniping for the odd win here and there, the Mercedes driver said: "If you take the first race away, with Max having the DNF, I think if you look at the results, we'd be very, very close in the points.

“And obviously, they [Red Bull] have had very strong results and are getting closer in races. Maybe in qualifying, we do have the edge, but as I say, when it comes to the race, we're generally a lot closer.

“We're not even halfway through the season and so I absolutely keep my eye on them. I think they still are a title runner and so we need to stay on our toes.”

Verstappen's run has propelled him six points clear of Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with the Finn now 43 points adrift and already staring at situations in which he has to win to keep his own hopes alive of stopping the Briton's march to a record-equalling seventh championship.

Bottas insists that after cutting a dejected figure in Spain where he finished third and almost 45 seconds behind Hamilton, that is now firmly behind him and he is fully recharged heading into this weekend's race in Belgium.

"It was a disappointing weekend, and obviously there are a few races that just haven't gone my way, far from what the goal was," said Bottas, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Friday.

“The most important thing is to bounce back, reset and find the right mindset. I definitely had a bit of a disconnect again as we had a weekend off, so I managed to recharge and I’m ready to be here again and try to be at my best level.

“I’m in good spirits and looking forward to spending my birthday on track, on one of the best tracks in the world and with probably the best racing car in the world, so things are good."

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