‘No-one’s invincible’: Max out to take down champ
Dutch star Max Verstappen has declared world champion Lewis Hamilton "beatable" and predicted Red Bull was ready to take the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes this year.
Ahead of the season opening Formula One race at the Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen said he was getting stronger as a driver every year and the team was well-placed to threaten the dominant Silver Arrows.
Verstappen enjoyed his best result in the Formula One world championship last year, finishing third behind the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
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While Hamilton is chasing his piece of Formula One history as he targets Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles, 22-year-old Verstappen has one last season to become the sport's youngest world champion if he was to succeed in taking down the Mercedes king.
Hamilton has won five of the past six Formula One world titles, but Verstappen said no one was invincible.
"Everyone is beatable in every sport," Verstappen said.
"Definitely Lewis has been winning a lot, Mercedes has been winning a lot and as a team we try to make it difficult for them.
"Lewis and the team they both did a great job, so it's up to us to try and give them a harder time."
Verstappen last year committed to a long-term future with Red Bull, extending his contract with the team until the end of 2023.
He said there was never any question about committing to the team, which he believed was ready to challenge Mercedes.
"If you are going to stretch it out longer it is going to create a bit of an awkward situation, which I didn't want because I think from both sides, we feel really good," Verstappen said.
"I feel really good in the team and also the way that we are working I really believe that we can start challenging Mercedes again.
"So for me there was no reason to change to another team so why would I wait longer and maybe leave it up to an awkward situation which is not necessary at all."
Verstappen already owns the records as Formula One's youngest driver at 17 and its youngest race winner at 18, but he said he was not getting caught up on becoming its youngest world champion.
"As a team you just want to win, that is I think the most important. If it's going to be the youngest or not at the end of the day it's not going to change a lot," Verstappen said.
Entering his sixth season in F1, Verstappen rated himself to be a more complete driver now and predicted he was only getting stronger in the drivers' seat each year.
"It's just getting better every year and I think that's the normal - I'm still very young," the eight-time Grand Prix race winner said.
"You can learn a lot of things, but, of course, I started a bit younger compared to most as well, especially also with the help from my dad (Jos) back in the day, I think that gave me a bit of an advantage coming in a bit younger.
"But I think you never stop learning even when you're 25 or whatever. To experience certain situations you still learn."
In the second year of Red Bull's engine partnership with Honda, Verstappen predicted the team would be able to take another step forward in 2020.
"I think everything is even more integrated. I think from the engine side as well there were some good steps again over the winter," he said.
"It's all looking very promising, but we need to see how it is going to be throughout the weekend."
After claiming his first podium at Albert Park with third place last year, he was confident he could be among the contenders again this weekend.
"We did (podium) last year so I think we can definitely do that again," Verstappen said.