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Lewis Hamilton expected to have Max Verstappen complaints as Mercedes warned over Red Bull

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Lewis Hamilton will be “grumbling a lot” about Max Verstappen throughout the 2021 Formula One season reckons Dutch racing driver Tom Coronel. The Red Bull driver is expected to be the main outside threat to Mercedes’ dominance this year.

Hamilton won a record-equalling seventh world title last year courtesy of finishing 124 points clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

The Briton has won six of the last seven available titles in the hybrid engine era with Nico Rosberg triumphant in 2016 before retiring, with Bottas replacing him.

The Finn has however failed to truly threaten Hamilton since then while Verstappen’s 2020 Drivers’ Championship charge was hampered by five DNFs.

The 23-year-old finished on the podium in 11 of the 12 races he completed but finished third behind Bottas in the final standings.

Yet Red Bull hope that they can continue to claw back the gap to the Silver Arrows after winning the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year in style, although Mercedes were met with accusations that they deliberately held back on power with both championships already won.

And Verstappen’s countryman Coronel, who continues to drive in the World Touring Car Championship having also competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 10 times, reckons he can frustrate Hamilton this year.

The 23-race season begins in Bahrain on March 28 with Red bull eager to get off to a strong start unlike in previous years.

Coronel expects the battle between the Milton Keynes-based team and world champions Mercedes to be much closer this year and thinks having Verstappen constantly in his wing mirrors will eke out some complaints from Hamilton.

“Hamilton became world champion in recent years, of course, way too early, well before the end of the season,” Ziggo Sport F1 analyst Coronel told Formula1.nl.

“But that was then: I am seriously expecting something special this year.

“Honda will do everything in its power with a new engine before they leave Formula One again. Because it has to happen now.

“I’m not saying Max will be champion, but we’re going to hear Hamilton grumbling a lot about the on-board radio.

“He always does that when someone is panting in his neck. Hamilton has had it way too easy in recent years.

“Red Bull is only getting closer to Mercedes, the difference simply cannot be greater than last year. Honda goes all-in.

“If they don’t succeed this year, it will never work again.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner previewed the upcoming season with Sky Sports F1 this week after the launch of his team’s RB16B 2021 car.

“It’s certainly our target [to catch Mercedes],” he said. “We’ve also had a regulation change – a subtle regulation change but it’s still quite impactful.

“So the whole team has worked incredibly hard in difficult conditions obviously over the winter with the lockdown and so on.

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“Hopefully we can come out of the box competitively, that’s been our Achilles heel in previous years, we haven’t turned up and been competitive from the get-go.

“Hopefully this year we can be competitive from the first race in Bahrain.”

He added of Verstappen’s new team-mate Sergio Perez, who joins from Racing Point now rebranded as Aston Martin: “He’s got so much experience, over 10 years in Formula One.

“I’ve known Sergio a long time, he’s always had this trait of being gentle on the tyres and very, very strong in race conditions.

“I think that brings another dynamic for us. Strategically, hopefully it’ll create more options for us as well.

“He’s been familiarising himself with one of the older cars to get himself back up to speed and learn some of our procedures and the way that we operate.

“He’s impressed the whole team with his attitude and his approach so far. It’s down to what they do on the track at the end of the day.

“Max is a tough customer to have as a team-mate, but we want both drivers up there and need both of them up there.

“To have any chance at all of closing that gap and putting Mercedes under pressure, we need both drivers firing on all cylinders.”



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