Verstappen expects Hamilton title challenge 'if he has the car to do it'
Formula One world champion Max Verstappen expects Lewis Hamilton to challenge him for the title next year "if he has the car to do it".
Hamilton, a seven-time drivers' championship winner, was blighted by car issues with Mercedes last season as he failed to win a race for the first time in his career.
Red Bull star Verstappen tallied a record-breaking 15 wins to finish 146 points ahead of closest rival Charles Leclerc in a dominant title-winning 2022 campaign.
But the Dutchman does not envisage a third straight F1 crown coming with such relative ease in 2023.
"He's been one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport, so for sure if he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again," Verstappen told Sky Sports of Hamilton.
He added: "But that's the same for George [Russell], it's the same for Charles, it's the same for Lando [Norris] – if you give them the car that's capable of winning the championship, they can.
"But it's also about when you have the car then the pressure comes you cannot afford big mistakes.
"That's a bit of a different pressure you have but I'm confident once these guys get onto a roll like that it is all possible, they all have talent to do so."
Red Bull cruised to the constructors' championship last year, winning the title for the first time since 2013.
However, the team have been hit with wind tunnel testing restrictions and CFD limitations after they were judged to have breached financial regulations.
The full impact of those punishments is unclear but a reduction in time allowed in the wind tunnel could lead Red Bull to fall behind their rivals in aerodynamic developments.
"You always try to go for it, but I don't know if we're going to be good enough," Verstappen added.
"Of course as a team we believe we are, we are very motivated, we come off the back of a very strong year and we are working flat out to try and achieve that."
Ford will return to F1 this year for the first time since 2004 and partner with Red Bull from 2026.
Verstappen cannot wait for the partnership after seeing success in a collaboration with Honda, having also witnessed first-hand the struggles with the Renault combination.
"I signed twice without actually fully knowing what was coming in terms of engines, and people said maybe that's a crazy thing to do," he continued.
"I believed in the project and I believed that everyone involved would make the right decisions for the team.
"The first one they made going with Honda, I think that worked out really well and now for the future this is the next step – Ford in 2026 – and I believe in it.
"If we all believe in it, I'm sure we can create something really cool."