Max Verstappen produced a dominant performance in Imola to reignite his world championship defence; Lewis Hamilton finished 13th as his terrible start to the season continued; Jos Verstappen: “Honestly, I did enjoy seeing Max lap Hamilton, after everything that happened last year”

Jos Verstappen has revealed he “enjoyed” seeing his son Max lap Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen and Hamilton contested an extremely intense title battle last season, in which the Dutchman controversially triumphed at the campaign’s Abu Dhabi finale in December.

Under F1’s new design regulations for the 2022 season, Hamilton’s Mercedes has been well off the pace of Verstappen’s Red Bull and the Ferraris, with the world champion and Charles Leclerc taking two victories each from the opening four races.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has endured a particularly disappointing start to the season, with his 13th-placed finish in Imola – a second successive pointless display – punctuated both by Verstappen lapping him and his new Mercedes team-mate George Russell finishing fourth.

Writing in a column on Verstappen’s official website, Jos cheekily suggested he took some pleasure from seeing his son put a lap on Hamilton.

“Max had an excellent weekend in Imola,” Jos Verstappen wrote. “I found him incredibly strong. He didn’t make a single mistake, was solid and completely in control.

“Red Bull clearly made a step in the right direction. Of course, we knew the car would get an upgrade in Italy, but with the weather conditions it was hard to make a comparison. But we can definitely conclude that we’ve become stronger.”

“Honestly, I did enjoy seeing Max lap Hamilton, after everything that happened last year. Hamilton really had a tough time, whereas his team-mate George Russell seemed to be more balanced. It’s not often you have the opportunity to lap a Mercedes.”

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jos Verstappen’s comments were not the first dig to be set in Hamilton’s direction by the Red Bull camp, with the team’s advisory Helmut Marko having suggested after the race on Sunday the Brit might be thinking he should have retired after last season.

Hamilton has declared himself out of the championship race for this season, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff publicly apologised for the car not being “worthy” of a world champion.

Verstappen’s victory in Imola helped reignite his title defence, with a late error that dropped Leclerc from third to sixth enabling him to close the Monegasque’s championship lead to 27 points ahead of the Miami Grand Prix, which is live on Sky Sports from May 6-8.
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Despite Hamilton’s early-season struggles, Sky Sports F1’s Johnny Herbert said on Wednesday the seven-time world champion’s leadership skills remain invaluable to Mercedes.

“I think what Lewis has always been really good at doing is being a leader,” Herbert said.

“I think that first kicked off when he joined McLaren with Fernando Alonso and how he was able to develop himself and mould himself within the team and that is exactly what he has been able to do at Mercedes.

“Motivation within the team, it is a massive and important thing for the driver to get the most out of the personnel, especially in the situation they find themselves in at the moment.

“So he will be working very, very hard with his engineers, with the designers, to try and work out exactly what is going wrong because I think they know they have fundamentally got a good car but until they can get the right set-up for the car, it is going to be a lot of hard work.

“But that is where he is going to be really inspiring within the team because that is something that he is still very, very driven to do – to get the best out of himself but out of the team at the same time.

“Even when you are winning you still have to keep that motivation going and the proof in the pudding was last year.

“It looked like it was going to be a runaway victory for Red Bull in the early and middle part of the season and it turned around and that just shows you how driven and how important he is for the team.

“You can never rule out Lewis, you can never rule out Mercedes.”

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