In an exclusive interview with OLBG, former Formula One driver and leading pundit Johnny Hebert reveals that Max Verstappen doesn’t have to follow Michael Schumacher’s footsteps and leave Red Bull to win titles at different teams.
He adds that Lando Norris could be the man to replace ‘under threat’ Sergio Perez at Red Bull and that Mercedes should concentrate on George Russell’s future over Lewis Hamilton’s.
Hamilton looks set to sign an extension at Mercedes – could it be done before Canada?
Hamilton has been on the verge of signing for about a month or more, but I am still thinking there is this Ferrari chance. I know they have denied it, but the deal hasn’t been done at Mercedes. They keep saying it’s close. I wonder if there is still something else going on outside this. I think it is worth a punt by Lewis as I see it that Mercedes, despite the improvement in Barcelona, are still way behind the curve when it comes to challenging Red Bull and to winning races.
Ferrari have a hell of a lot of potential which they can bring to the table. I still have a question mark about Mercedes Benz at this time.
Has the relationship between Hamilton and Toto Wolff changed recently?
I think they are close and have a lot of respect for each other. They both joined Mercedes in 2013. But we are in a very different scenario because they are not able to give him or George a car which they are able to win a world championship with. The whole raison d’etre of a driver is to be world champion. You are always aware of what is going around you, you are always aware of who might be the next team with the potential to be with. Lewis has definitely had a wakeup call in the last couple of seasons where Mercedes are not on top of their game as they once were.
Lewis will be thinking, ‘Where am I going to get that chance of an eight title?’ He deserves it for all the reasons we know about. Where is going to give me that fulfillment to be able to do that?’
Was Barcelona an improvement which shows Mercedes are on the right track?
It is one damn race we are talking about. Let’s see what happens in Canada and the next couple of races. Monaco was pretty much the same old, it was better in Barcelona but we don’t know if it will be repeated. Max at Red Bull are almost pretty much certain to win. Despite that improvement they are still a long way off the Red Bull. The pure speed of the Ferrari is there or thereabouts with Red Bull but they fall down when it comes down to the race. That can be sorted out.
F1 Drivers Championship Betting Guide: Strategies, Statistics & Picks
How big a setback would it be if Hamilton did move away from Mercedes?
Mercedes are in a very lucky position because we are all very aware of what George Russell does. He has really stepped up and he has really put Hamilton under a lot of pressure. Russell is the future whatever we think of Hamilton, who we know is still good enough to win races. Russell is more than capable of being the driver to produce what Mercedes need and who will be very beneficial to them in the future.
Is Sergio Perez safe at Red Bull?
There is always going to be favouritism in a team because you know one of them will deliver and deliver consistently. As much as Sergio showed in the early part of the season that he was more than capable of mixing it with Max, there was then a point that he wasn’t. Like Schumacher, Senna, Mansell, Hakkinen, they are always able to get the best out of their equipment every weekend. In real terms, I would say he is under threat, but he is a very good number two. When he is on his game he can win. Even then he would be second or third and that will still enable Red Bull to win the constructors’ championship which is obviously very important. If you want more competitiveness to Verstappen, you either need Russell, or Hamilton or Charles Leclerc or maybe Lando Norris.
Lando Norris has a long-term contract with McLaren and I don’t know if he has a performance clause in it to move from McLaren. I think it would be a good move for Red Bull. It would add positivity to the team and I think he is more than capable of being able to deal with that position.
Fernando Alonso: what drives him at this stage of his career?
Fernando Alonso is having the season of his life. Remember Nigel Mansell was nearly 40 when he won his championship. It is all about motivation. For instance, when Ayrton Senna sometimes didn’t turn up for the first couple of tests we used to do back in the day, he was trying to get himself motivated to be able to get back in the car after a long season and be ready for the off.
Hamilton is very much that way inclined as is Verstappen. Alonso still has a thrill of riving an F1 car. He is in a bit of an underdog situation with Aston Martin and I think that motivates him to be able to pull out those results. His comment about that’s the last time I am not on the podium is a by-product of that motivation. It is so refreshing and it is lovely that he has got back to that enthusiastic way rather than when he was not enjoying life at McLaren Honda and he was complaining on the radio about the engine, whatever. That’s not there anymore. He is in a very happy place. That is what you need to get the best out of yourself, the team and the car.
Current F1 World Championship Betting Odds
Here are the current odds for the drivers world championship title.
Ferrari won Le Mans. Could the magic rub off on them?
I fear it won’t work out that way. Ferrari have a quick car, but their biggest issue of late is they haven’t been able to get the best out of it in a race. The race pace was way off. They haven’t moved forward really.
The lower downforce at Montreal might benefit them, but can they come up with a solution for their race pace, which is a problem. It’s a very difficult thing to change during a season.
To be an all time great, does Max have to move and win with another team?
Vertsappen doesn’t have to move and win with another team to be considered a great. Michael Schumacher did with Benetton and Mercedes. But whatever car you are in, the elite like Verstappen or Hamilton will be able to perform in any car they are given. If he moved to another team the car has still got to give him the chance of him winning a race and a title. We know Lewis Hamilton can be equal to Max Verstappen if they are in the same equipment.
It is not a fair thing to say that Verstappen can only be considered one of the great unless he is in another car.
Is there a danger Red Bull’s domination could lead to boredom among fans?
If you look at the Netflix and America coming on board we have had a couple of years where we have had a fight on our hands. Ferrari were in the mix last year but then it went awry. This year Red Bull are in complete control. If there is a threat that people might turn off because it is predictable then yes, Red Bull’s domination could be a problem. It is not what I want. I want others to have that chance to take it to Verstappen. We are not seeing that. There is always that being predictable could lead people to switch off.
How will Canada go for Mercedes?
Historically this has been a strong track for Hamilton and Mercedes. This will really show after Barcelona where they are at. This will really be about whether they have got the key in the right lock. Because it is a track he goes very well on.
The track because it is lower down force, the car has a tendency to be floaty when you’re under braking. The better cars don’t tend to have that squirming around. The challenge is to have the right balance, but when you have lower down force that is where that balance really comes into play.
Can Max to win again then?
You have got to think Verstappen is favourite to win. The most realistic challenge is probably going to come from Ferrari. They have the rawest and quickest car, compared with Mercedes for example. But we don’t really know if it will come alive in Montreal.
Canadian Grand Prix Current Betting Odds
These are the odds ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix - This section will be empty post event
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