Brundle: Hamilton's 2021 options 'cut down' by Verstappen deal

Former F1 driver and Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle believes that Max Verstappen’s new deal with Red Bull Racing has “cut down” Lewis Hamilton’s options for 2021.

Verstappen extended this week his allegiance to Red Bull – the company that brought the Dutchman into F1 in 2014 – until the end of 2023.

Vesrtappen’s deal with the Milton Keynes-based team has quashed the prospect of a move to Ferrari or Mercedes in the mid-term.

But Brundle says the move, coupled with Charles Leclerc’s locked-in seat at Ferrari, opens up questions about Mercedes’ game plan regarding the future with both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ contracts expiring at the end of this year.

“The Verstappen news does make my mind think ‘what’s going on at Mercedes’ short to medium term?” Brundle told Sky Sports.

“I really would have expected one of Verstappen or Leclerc to rock up at Mercedes.

“You’d have to look at it and think that Mercedes have got to be at least the equal-best car for another two or three years with the momentum they’ve got, so why hasn’t one of them signed up there?”

Hamilton has said that he is in no hurry to decide his post-2020 future, although the six-time world champion has often expressed his desire to remain with the Mercedes family, despite rumors of Ferrari’s courtship of the Briton.

“It leaves Lewis with reduced options, but he’s still holding a lot of aces,” added Brundle. “And it doesn’t prevent Lewis from going to either of those two teams at all, really.

“It possibly would at Red Bull, but it doesn’t stop the idea of a Hamilton-Leclerc line-up at Ferrari. But it has cut Lewis’ options down, if indeed he hasn’t already signed with Mercedes-Benz longer term.

“Maybe the music stopped before Christmas, they all sat down and there is some embedded news we haven’t heard yet.”

Brundle admitted to have been surprised by the recent flurry of contract announcements.

“These post-2020 deals have certainly happened earlier than I expected,” he said.

“I thought Max would see whether Red Bull could give him a championship-challenging car over the first few races of the year and then take a view.

“So something has crystalised that earlier, which again makes my mind wonder about what is going on elsewhere.”

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Hamilton 'one of the greatest of all time', declares Brundle

Lewis Hamilton has earned his place among the all-time greatest drivers in motor racing, says Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle.

“Lewis must be fully recognised in every way for his sporting success to date,” Brundle says in his analysis of the most recent Grand Prix, which saw Hamilton seal his sixth Formula 1 world championship.

That moves him ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio, and just one behind the the all-time record of seven held by Michael Schumacher.

“He’s set to challenge every high tide mark left by Michael Schumacher,” Brundle said. “Sunday was [Hamilton’s] 150th F1 podium, just five shy of Michael’s tally.

“He’s ahead in other aspects such as pole positions,” the former F1 driver added. “Frankly, it’s not out of the question he could easily have seven or eight titles already.

“With a touch more luck and a following wind [he could have won] in 2007 and 2016 – although 2008 did involve some good fortune in Brazil!

“Anybody involved in F1 knows just how hard it is to achieve finishes, points, podiums, victories and a championship at this level – let alone six.

“I’m in awe of his relentless achievements, and I have no doubt he is one of the UK’s greatest-ever sportsmen,” he added.

“Furthermore, there can be no realistic debate about ‘greatest racing drivers of all time’ without including Lewis.”

Brundle pointed out that Hamilton was “risking his good health and life to deliver those global victories,” and added: “The physical and mental challenge over so many years is immense.

“Lewis has his own unique way of counterbalancing that with his personal life interests,” Brindle continued. “He certainly had a team of A-listers in his corner in Austin.

“Whether you appreciate that or not, he’s more box-office than the rest of F1 put together.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10.

And Brundle said that he didn’t see an end to Hamilton’s dominance of the sport for a few years to come.

“I’ve often said I feel the optimum crossover between youth and experience in F1 is between 28 and 34 years old,” he wrote.

“Lewis is 35 in January and so I may have to revise that given drivers’ personal fitness and the safety and integrity of the cars and circuits now.

“It’s motivation, eyesight, reaction and judgement which can fade today, but they are all so well-conditioned and cared for.

“After all Kimi Raikkonen is still flying along quite nicely at 40!”

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Leclerc 'effectively' the team leader at Ferrari – Brundle

Former F1 driver and Sky F1 commentator  Martin Brundle says Charles Leclerc has now “effectively” overhauled Sebastian Vettel as the team leader of Scuderia Ferrari.

After coming close to race wins in Bahrain and Austria, Leclerc finally secured his maiden win last weekend at Spa after a commanding performance that left Lewis Hamilton chasing and teammate Sebastian Vettel trailing by a country mile.

Brundle praised the Monegasque for his outstanding first triumph achieved with a heavy heart following the tragic passing the day before of childhood friend Anthoine Hubert.

“His pole position lap was silky smooth, his start and restarts perfect, and tyre management improved,” wrote Brundle in his post-race column for Sky Sports.

“And in the closing stages with the ever-relentless Lewis Hamilton chasing him down he didn’t falter.

“We’ve seen Leclerc drive at international level in adversity several times now after the death of his father and close friends Jules Bianchi and Anthoine Hubert.

“On Sunday he did so, while carrying the mighty Ferrari team on his shoulders, and all at the age of 21.”

Brundle believes the baton at Ferrari has been unintentionally passed on by Vettel.

“I knew he was going to be good, but not this good,” added the Briton.

“He’s effectively already the team leader as Sebastian Vettel struggles to match his speed and control, and he’s still improving fast.

“It’s difficult times for Seb, and with the events of the weekend and taking a look at himself and his own life and achievements, he must be mulling over all options.”

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Brundle believes Vettel has 'lost judgment and reactions'

Sky F1’s Martin Brundle believes Sebastian Vettel is a driver who has now “lost judgment and reactions” as he reaches the late stage of his career in F1.

Vettel was fiercely dicing with Max Verstappen in Sunday’s British Grand Prix when the Ferrari driver was overhauled by the Dutchman at Stowe corner.

As the pair barreled down into Vale, Vettel missed his braking point and ploughed into the back of the Red Bull, spinning both drivers out of contention.

For Brundle, the blunder was but another tell-tale sign, after last year’s multiple errors and mishaps that occurred earlier this season in Bahrain and Canada, that the German is slowly losing his edge as he enters the twilight of his career in Grand Prix racing.

“Is he just having an unfortunate run, or has he lost a touch of vision, reaction and judgement which shows up at these speeds when under pressure?” asked Brundle in his post-race Sky Sports column.

“I like the man so much and admire his track record, intellect, and human values, but I long ago lost the right as a pundit to sit on the fence.

“As we have seen with many drivers in the later stages of their careers, he has lost judgement and reactions in wheel-to-wheel action.”

As Brundle described the circumstances of the misstep, the former F1 driver tried to find mitigating factors. In vain, however.

“I know how easily that Silverstone incident can happen,” said the Brit.

“F1 cars, without brake lights, can slow five times harder than the finest road car.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90 crashes into the back of Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB15.

“Then, just as you panic a little too hard onto the brake pedal you lose front downforce and grip as your two-metre-wide front wing disappears underneath your rival’s gearbox.

“To add to this, Vettel had some right steering lock applied, hoping to sweep across the back of the Red Bull, which would have but some roll moment and jacking into his front suspension.

“Boom, brakes and therefore tyres locked solid, retardation dramatically reduced, contact imminent.”

Brundle noted that Lewis Hamilton, while older than Vettel, is displaying no signs of messiness on the race track.

“Lewis does not make mistakes like that, and he’s two-and-a-half years older than Seb for that matter,” he added.

“Meanwhile, Leclerc in the other Ferrari is gaining speed and confidence all the time.

“Seb has the speed, can he regain the control? It’s a very big question for him.”

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