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Gerhard Berger believes Lewis Hamilton is getting extra motivation from Max Verstappen in the world title fight. Tensions are building ahead of the first triple-header of the season, with Hamilton and Verstappen gearing up for an intense three weeks of racing, starting in Paul Ricard on Sunday.
Hamilton has mostly come under pressure from his Mercedes teammates in championship battles, during the past years. Berger, who was Ayrton Senna’s team-mate at McLaren in the early 90s, reckons Hamilton will be getting an extra boost of competitiveness from Verstappen.
“It’s a lot easier for Lewis to race against Max,” Berger told Sport1. “Because it always gives you a bit of a kick up the backside when your rival is in another car.
“It’s all about whether you finish ahead of him. But if you don’t, you don’t lose your image because the other one might have the better car. But if you’re beaten by a Nico Rosberg in the same team, that’s more like an insult.”
Berger concluded that Hamilton’s experience will carry him this season in his battle with Verstappen.
“No, under this extreme pressure Lewis is still in the clear,” Berger added. “In Baku, he knew that he had to risk everything at the last start in order to win. It just went wrong.
“But that can happen. In fact, it is interesting that Mercedes weakens from time to time under the pressure of Red Bull. Then Ferrari comes in from the side, or McLaren, who are doing a super job with [Lando] Norris. Even a [Pierre] Gasly with Alpha Tauri can drive at the front. But that’s exactly the tension that Formula 1 and its fans need.”