Felipe Massa has predicted neither Lewis Hamilton nor Fernando Alonso could match Max Verstappen at Red Bull, with the Dutchman on course for a record-breaking margin of victory in the 2023 Formula 1 drivers’ championship.
With Red Bull‘s 2023 season redefining the phrase ‘class of the field’ in F1, Verstappen is 266 points ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, who remains under pressure to secure second-place in the championship ahead of Hamilton.
Verstappen‘s more then doubled his teammate’s tally while Hamilton and Alonso have kept in touch with Perez despite their vastly inferior machinery, but Massa believes neither driver would put up a real title challenge alongside the Dutchman.
“What Verstappen has shown this season is unprecedented,” Massa told Dutch magazine Formule 1. “Even if we put Hamilton or Alonso in the other car, I’m not sure it would change much. Maybe a little, but even they wouldn’t beat Max.”
Massa‘s currently instigating a legal challenge against F1 and the FIA for damages after claiming he was robbed of the 2008 title against Hamilton.
Massa won the season-ending 2008 Brazilian GP but lost the championship when Hamilton overtook Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap for one of the most dramatic title wins ever.
Despite such a strong season, that Interlagos victory proved Massa‘s last time atop an F1 podium – he was on course to win the 2010 German GP but Ferrari ordered him to give first place to teammate Alonso.
Massa: We all want to see a repeat of 2021 Abu Dhabi GP
Massa added Red Bull should keep hold of Verstappen to preserve harmony in the team, despite that move being unpopular with fans.
Verstappen secured his third world championship at the 2023 Qatar GP, joining an illustrious group of Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham.
Meanwhile he’s surpassed Senna and Alain Prost for grand prix victories and could overhaul Sebastian Vettel before the end of the season – Vestappen‘s predecessor as Red Bull golden boy.
However, the championship win that kickstarted the Verstappen era has gone down as one of the most controversial in F1 history, with Hamilton set to take the 2021 title before intervention from race director Michael Masi that was later branded ‘human error’ by the FIA.
“As long as Max is happy and Red Bull wins the drivers’ and constructors’ championship, I think it would be wise to leave things as they are,” Massa added. “Obviously, Max is feeling good and is winning almost every race. For him, any change would be making things worse.
“But let’s be honest: we would all prefer the championship to be decided in the last round, as it was in Abu Dhabi in 2021. If we think like that, we certainly want the best driver on the grid to take over from Checo Perez.”