Hamilton still F1's top driver but Verstappen is closing - Webber & Brawn

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Lewis Hamilton remains Formula 1's best driver but Max Verstappen continues to close the gap, Mark Webber and Ross Brawn claim.

This year, the Briton was once again unstoppable, winning 11 of 17 races en route to equalling Michael Schumacher as a seven-time world champion.

Meanwhile, Verstappen was the only non-Mercedes driver to consistently challenge the Brackley-based team, finishing just nine points behind Valtteri Bottas in third and 109 ahead of Sergio Perez in fourth.

However, while few would argue the pair are not the quickest drivers on the F1 grid currently, in terms of the battle between them, Webber still thinks Hamilton would have the edge.

“Max did a very, very, very good job,” the former Red Bull driver told Dutch magazine Formule 1. “He is in the final phase of fine-grinding his craftsmanship, if I may put it that way.

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“Is he already Lewis Hamilton on Saturday, in that he is the same as Lewis in qualifying? Yes.

“Is he already Lewis on Sunday? No, he is not but that’s normal.

“There aren’t many drivers who get into such a situation that you can dominate for a while and have the peace and regularity to do so without becoming complacent," Webber added.

“That is experience, that is what he [Max] has to learn. He and Charles Leclerc, by the way. They are the hotshots coming up.”

Reflecting on the year that was in 2020, F1 motorsport boss Brawn also believes Hamilton once again proved why he is the best of his generation.

“I think it has to be Lewis, and I say has to be in the sense that he has set a new benchmark in terms of world championships,” he told the F1 Nation podcast on who was his driver of the year.

“I think it’s very easy for people to assume that he had the best car. It’s an easy exercise and it’s far from the case. He definitely won races he shouldn’t have won.

"We think of Turkey, probably the most difficult race of the year, and he sat there quietly getting on with it until the opportunity came and there he was in the pound seat and he won the race.

“He just endorsed what we already knew, that he is a truly exceptional driver. Definitely, in the higher echelons of the Schumacher’s and the Senna’s, he’s in that group, there’s no doubt about it." 

Brawn though echoed Webber in highlighting the continued progress Verstappen is making.

“I thought Max matured very well this year if we think back to Max of a couple of years ago,” he added. “He was pretty unlucky this year, I have to say.

"There were a couple of times the car didn’t quite have the reliability and he got caught up in accidents that were not his fault and we were deprived of seeing some great races from him.

“But I’m optimistic with the group of drivers that we have, that we are going to have some great races in the future.

“We’ve got a really great run of drivers and I think we were all massively excited by George Russell getting in the Mercedes," Brawn noted.

"That was a fairy story that didn’t quite happen but I don’t think we will forget that. We’ve had some great stories this year," he concluded.