LONDON • Max Verstappen has admitted that nobody can stop Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton winning his seventh Formula One world championship this season.
The Red Bull driver finished second and within sight of Hamilton at the British Grand Prix on Sunday, but that was also because both the Briton and his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas had punctured tyres towards the end of the race.
When asked after the season's fourth race if there are any real contenders to challenge Hamilton, the Dutchman simply said: "No."
The Mercedes duo lead the standings with Hamilton on 88 points, Bottas on 58 and Verstappen on 52.
And with tyre compounds getting softer - and faster - for this weekend's 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at the same Silverstone circuit, Verstappen feels that Mercedes will again dominate.
"It's so big, come on!" he said, referring to the gap to the Silver Arrows in terms of car performances.
"Maybe you find a tenth, or one and a half, but it's not enough. I'm trying but it's not possible at the moment. We have to keep working."
Hamilton also admitted that he would prefer some competition, saying: "I'd much, much prefer to be having a super-close battle because that's what gets me going."
Verstappen added that he had no regrets about a late pit stop on Sunday that won him a point for fastest lap but may have cost him victory.
He was in third place with Hamilton and Bottas seemingly heading for a comfortable one-two when he decided to go for the fastest lap bonus point on fresh tyres.
Bottas then suffered a puncture on the penultimate lap that dropped him to 11th while Hamilton hung on to win after his front left tyre burst on the last lap.
I'd much, much prefer to be having a super-close battle because that's what gets me going.
LEWIS HAMILTON, six-time Formula One world champion, on the lack of competition this season.
Verstappen was too far behind to make up the distance, closing from 31 seconds back to five at the finish.
"I know everyone is asking whether we should not have pitted for the soft tyre because we could have won," said the 22-year-old.
"I don't regret anything and I believe we made the right decision. Who knows if I would also have got a puncture. Mercedes deserved to win as they were faster than us."
Until the punctures, Verstappen's race behind the two Mercedes had been so low on excitement that he reversed roles for fun and reminded his race engineer to remember to drink water and stay hydrated. "Other than that I was just counting sheep," he said.
F1's official tyre supplier Pirelli is aiming to get to the bottom of its tyre failure, with McLaren's Carlos Sainz also having a punctured tyre.
"We will obviously investigate what happened in the last few laps," said Pirelli's head of motor sport Mario Isola. "It could be high wear because tyres with 38 laps or more on this circuit are quite worn.
"But it can also be debris because some pieces of the front wing of Kimi (Raikkonen) were on track. The target is to have something hopefully by Tuesday at the latest."
Sainz's teammate Lando Norris commented that the tyres needed constant management throughout.
He said: "It is even on lap one, you can't push as much as you want. As soon as you feel an understeer you just back out of it. Otherwise you end up having a problem like a lot of people have where the front tyre just pops off."
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff believes his warnings against complacency are now justified because of the tyre failures.
"We could have easily lost two cars today, out of the points, and then the points advantage would have vanished in a second," he said.
"This is what I'm always pointing out, the championship is not over until it's mathematically impossible for anybody else to catch us, and the race isn't over until the flag drops."