Max Verstappen labelled Lewis Hamilton’s ‘heir’ but warned about Charles Leclerc threat

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Max Verstappen could be the “heir” to Lewis Hamilton as F1’s biggest star in the coming years, despite the threat from Charles Leclerc. Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger claims Leclerc can still win “many world championships” and will be a threat to Verstappen in the long term.

However, he has called the reigning champion the “heir” to Hamilton and before him Ayrton Senna.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Berger said: “Hamilton is very similar to Ayrton in the way he runs races, but also in the way he works politically and the way he directs the team. Senna had a charismatic personality that won the hearts of almost everyone.

“Ayrton and Lewis are similar and special. Their heir may be Verstappen, but Leclerc can win many world championships.”

Hamilton has become the driver of his generation, picking up seven titles across two teams. His most successful spell has come at Mercedes where he picked up six crowns including four back-to-back between 2017 and 2020.

Verstappen is one of only two drivers to have stopped Hamilton since he moved to Mercedes, the other being Hamiton’s former team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016. Verstappen picked up his first crown at 24, just months older than when Hamilton secured his first title in 2008.

It means the Dutchman has several years ahead to try and beat Hamilton and Michael Schumacher’s record of seven championships. Former driver and 1996 champion Damon Hill certainly believes he has a shot to beat the all-time record.

He said: “If let’s say for example, Red Bull have got it right and have a run of success like they did with Sebastian Vettel.

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“He’s got one world championship, let’s say he wins another three, he’s got four world championships. He’s halfway by the time he’s 28, to equalling, potentially, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher… he’s on track.

“He’s on track for this ridiculously long career of winning many world championships.”

However, Verstappen’s hunt to defend his title has not started well with the champion lying sixth in the standings. He looked on course to finish second in both Bahrain and Australia before suffering mechanical failures.

It means he has thrown away an almost guaranteed 36 points which leaves him 46 points behind championship leader Leclerc.

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