Bernie Ecclestone takes dig at Lewis Hamilton as he backs Max Verstappen to win F1 title

Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button

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Former Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has taken a dig at Lewis Hamilton by suggesting he’s no longer the main man in F1. Hamilton has dominated the Drivers’ World Championship in recent years but is at serious risk of losing his crown this season.

Red Bull’S Max Verstappen extended his lead in the drivers’ standings to 32 points with victory in the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, his third successive triumph.

The Dutchman has won five of the nine races this season, whilst Red Bull have won six, including Sergio Perez’s victory in Azerbaijan.

Hamilton aims to make it five consecutive world titles this season but hasn’t won a race since the Spanish Grand Prix at the start of May.

JUST IN: Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes ‘miles away’ from Red Bull

Ecclestone recently stated that while you can’t write the Brit off, he isn’t number one in F1 at the moment.

The 90-year-old suggested that any of the top challengers can dethrone Hamilton if they have a good car.

He told BILD: “No, I don’t think [Hamilton is number one] at the moment. The top six drivers can beat Lewis and Max if they have the right car.

“The difference with a real champion is one who can cope with difficult situations. But you can’t write Lewis off by any means.”

Ecclestone has tipped Verstappen to claim his first world title this year, but expects an exciting battle between the 23-year-old and seven-time champion Hamilton.

“Yes, [Verstappen can win the title this year], definitely. It will be an exciting duel for him and Verstappen,” Ecclestone explained.

“In Formula One, as a top driver, you don’t just need the best car; you also always need a bit of luck.

“Lewis had that for many, many years. At the moment it’s not always on his side and Mercedes’ side – but I also have to say that Red Bull is doing a super job.”

After Hamilton couldn’t even finish on the podium last weekend in Austria, placing fourth behind Lando Norris, he now must bounce back.

The Mercedes star will have a prime opportunity to do so in his home race next weekend, as the British Grand Prix rolls around on Sunday, July 18.

Every race Verstappen wins, Hamilton is pushed further away from breaking Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles.

Of course, Hamilton is expected to smash that record eventually, but Red Bull’s new star is making him work for it this year.

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