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Could Max Verstappen challenge Hamilton for F1 Championship in 2018?

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons

It’s been an impressive season for Max Verstappen in 2017. He finished the championship in sixth place, which really isn’t bad considering the young driver was only in his third season in F1. Not only that, but Verstappen put in solid and noteworthy performances, vastly improving on last year and showing that he can compete with the biggest names.

Where exactly Verstappen stands in the hierarchy is a matter of debate. In the official rankings, he is closely tailing teammate Daniel Ricciardo and even further behind current champion Lewis Hamilton and second place Sebastian Vettel. Yet the curve of his performance and the outcome of his races are on a sharp rise.

Verstappen plugged a lot of his gaps in 2017, smoothing the rough edges of his 2016 season. Though Lewis Hamilton is still the clear favorite to win, online sports betting site BetStars has Verstappen down as the second favorite in 2018 with 10/3 odds. He may be one to watch out for next year as a serious contender, and may even finish before Vettel and Ricciardo.

In the 2017 F1 Championship, Vettel managed to out-qualify teammate Ricciardo in 13 out of 20 races, though Ricciardo was fastest overall. He won two Grand Prix, one in Malaysia in which he overtook Hamilton on the way to victory, and another in Mexico where he took the lead at the first corner and was never caught up to again!

Verstappen raced impressively throughout the season, handling his car well and taking risks when necessary. Apart from one major slip up in which he collided with Ricciardo after making a mistake early on, he has kept it together and at times has shocked crowds with his prowess. As well as his Grand Prix results, he made outstanding recoveries in the USA, and in China, he even came back from 17th place to 6th place in the first lap.

It seems that Red Bull has also fully recognized the value of Max Verstappen. They have recently extended his contract, which already ran to 2019, for another year. Apparently, Mercedes was interested in getting hold of the upcoming talent, and Red Bull needed to lock him down. The deal will make Verstappen the third highest paid driver in Formula 1, after Hamilton and Vettel, and he is expected to earn a salary of £18 - £26 million. Red Bull must sense that this young star is heading places fast!

Verstappen himself credits his rise to stardom and his impressive results this season to experience and his ability to “put the pieces together,” as well as a sprinkle of luck with qualifying, which he believes always helps. Winter testing and improvements to the car have also been factors in securing his results.

Winner of two Grand Prix events this season, and now the second favorite on some sports betting sites to be the 2018 Championship winner, could Verstappen prove to be the challenger to Hamilton that we have all been waiting for? It would certainly make for an exciting season with thrilling races. It’s also about time stern competition eyed up the title.