Verstappen is cruising towards an early second world title triumph after winning 10 out of the 15 races so far this season, with the latest coming in Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Verstappen slugged it out in a fierce, season-long title battle last year culminating at Abu Dhabi 2021 but the pair have barely raced each other in 2022 due to Mercedes’ struggles for competitiveness, initially due to porpoising.
Asked if he was impressed by Verstappen’s performances this year ahead of the weekend, Hamilton instead turned the focus onto Red Bull’s chief technical officer, Adrian Newey, the mastermind behind the RB18.
“It’s more that I’m impressed with Adrian Newey and his team,” Hamilton said. “I think it is a great team; they’ve generally had really great cars for some time.
“They’ve done a fantastic job and anything I’ve said in the past about the team, I didn’t mean it in a negative way. I think years ago I said something about them being a drinks company, and I was just really highlighting that you would bet more on a car company, but they’ve proved me wrong and everyone else.
“But also knowing that Adrian did his thesis on ground effect cars when he was at university, it’s no surprise what he has done and created this year. It is impressive but I believe in the young guns in my team and that we will catch up.”
When asked what he made of Hamilton’s comments following his latest victory at his home race at Zandvoort, Verstappen said: “There’s a lot of that is down to the team, of course, as also how Lewis won his championships.
“That’s how it goes in Formula 1. Your car is super-important, but I think when you’re an exceptional driver like of course Lewis is as well, you make a difference over your team-mate at the time, because in very crucial races as well.
“For example, for me, I think one that stood out as well for him, was Turkey, when it was very slippery – just staying calm, not making mistakes. You end up winning a race like that and that’s what, at the end of the day, what good drivers do.
“They do make the difference compared to other fast drivers but not as good. So, yeah, the car is very dominant in Formula 1 but of course between team-mates, only one can win, and that’s where you have to make the difference.”