Max Verstappen aims Valtteri Bottas dig as Red Bull ace targets Lewis Hamilton title scrap

Max Verstappen thinks Valtteri Bottas should be up at the top of the World Drivers’ Championship standings with Lewis Hamilton going into Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. The Red Bull star splits the Mercedes duo after bouncing back from a nightmare retirement at the season-opening race in Austria to secure five consecutive podium finishes.

Verstappen is glad to be second in the drivers’ standings ahead of the showdown at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, where he crashed out last year following a first-corner tangle with Kimi Raikkonen.

The 22-year-old, though, thinks Bottas should be the driver trailing most closely in Hamilton’s wake given the strength of his own Mercedes W11.

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And while he’s pleased Red Bull are getting the most out of their own package, he really wants to be fighting it out with Hamilton for the F1 title.

“I think looking at pure pace, they of course, both of them, they should have been ahead of me in the championship,” said Verstappen.

“Of course, Valtteri had one retirement, I had one retirement. Or ‘retirement’, [Bottas] finished out of the points [at the British Grand Prix] with a puncture. So, no points. But of course that was unlucky for him and unlucky for me in the first race.

“But yeah, I think overall to be second in a few races where I think Mercedes had more pace, I think we definitely overachieved a bit and besides that, I think we always maximised what we could, so yeah, I’m of course very happy with that.

“But I think as a team and myself, of course, we are not here to be second or third, we want to fight for the championship.”

Verstappen’s army of fans will have to roar him on from home this weekend with spectators banned from attending the race in the picturesque Belgian countryside due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Dutchman admits it’s a blow that his compatriots aren’t allowed to make the short journey over the border from Holland.

“The Orange Army are normally out in full force at Spa so it’s a shame we won’t have any fans this year but hopefully they will enjoy the race at home on TV,” said Verstappen.

Verstappen is, though, savouring the prospect of taking on the 4.352 mile track, which is one of the best-loved on the F1 calendar.

“I love Spa, it’s my favourite circuit on the calendar so I’m always looking forward to driving there,” said Verstappen. “It’s a bit more old school as well so there’s not too much run off in some places.

“The elevation changes throughout the whole track, you go up and down and there are not too many slow corners, which is always very nice in an F1 car because you really get to experience the full speed and the middle sector at Spa gives you that.”

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