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Verstappen says Hamilton set for ‘awkward’ last season at Mercedes

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen believes Lewis Hamilton face an awkward final campaign at Mercedes after his title rival’s dramatic move to Ferrari for the 2025 season.

Hamilton, 39, stunned motorsport by announcing even before next month’s opening 2024 Grand Prix in Bahrain that he would be leaving Mercedes, with whom he has won six of his seven world titles, to race for Italian giants Ferrari next year. 

On Wednesday, Hamilton — without a win in two years — made his first public appearance since news of his dramatic transfer became public by insisting he was determined to get Mercedes “back to where we once were”.

But Verstappen, speaking at Red Bull’s car launch on Thursday, predicted that would be easier said than done now it was known Hamilton would be leaving the ‘Silver Arrows’ for the red of Ferrari.

The Dutchman, who won 19 out of last season’s 22 races as he surged towards a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship, even suggested Hamilton would be barred from some Mercedes team meetings during the 2024 season because he was destined to join a rival outfit.

“For the rest of the year, I would say it’s a little bit awkward,” said Verstappen at Red Bull’s factory in Milton Keynes, northwest of London, on Thursday.

“It’s not like they are suddenly enemies. He has achieved so many great things with them. They are still behind him, and for sure he has a great relationship with everyone, especially (Mercedes team principal) Toto (Wolff).”

The 26-year-old, however, added: “But he knows at one point, and Toto for sure will tell him: ‘Look, I know we’ve had all this success, but you can’t be part of certain meetings any more’.

“That is normal in F1. It’s probably a bit weird. But you are professional enough to deal with that. And once he’s sitting in the car, they will of course go flat out for him.”

Verstappen said he believed Hamilton and Ferrari had been forced into announcing the British driver’s move sooner than planned.   

“It must have been leaked to announce something that big that early in the season,” he said. “Him going to Ferrari is not really shocking. It’s not a surprise they were talking. I just think the announcement was a bit rushed.”

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