Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen (left) celebrates his second world championship with Red Bull engineers and pit crew at Suzuka AFP / Toshifumi KITAMURA

Reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen has hit back at Lewis Hamilton for claiming this year's Red Bull is quicker than any of his title-winning Mercedes cars.

In 2021, Verstappen ended Hamilton's streak of four championships by clinching the drivers' title. Last year, Hamilton was nowhere in the title race as the Red Bull driver sealed his second straight title with four races remaining in the 2022 F1 season. Verstappen finished the year with an incredible 454 points, 214 more than Mercedes' Hamilton, who ended the title race in sixth place.

Carrying the same momentum into the ongoing 2023 season, Verstappen appears to be en route to a possible third consecutive drivers' championship. The Dutch driver has claimed victories in two out of the first three races of the 2023 campaign – Bahrain and Australia, while he finished second at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

All races so far this year have gone in the favour of Red Bull as Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez was the first driver to cross the chequered flag in Jeddah. The new RB19 car has been so fast this year and in some cases, it has been a second-a-lap quicker than the rest of the grid.

'Never seen a car so fast'

Brit star Hamilton won six of his seven world championships during Mercedes' ruthless dominance of the V6 turbo hybrid era as the German constructor went unbeaten between 2014 and 2020.

Comparing his title-winning cars to Verstappen's current RB19, Hamilton made a big statement, saying he has "never seen a car so fast."

"I don't know, it's not for me to say, but I've never seen a car so fast. When we were fast, we weren't that fast. That's the fastest car I've seen compared to the rest," Hamilton claimed.

Regarding Verstappen passing Hamilton during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the seven-time champion said," I don't know why or how but he came past me with serious speed. I didn't even bother to block because there was a massive speed difference... yep."

After the recently concluded Australian Grand Prix, which Verstappen won and Hamilton settled for P2, the Mercedes driver once again pointed out Red Bull's superiority on the field, saying his team needs to work hard to catch their rivals.

"We've got work to do to catch the Red Bull - it came flying past and disappeared," said Hamilton, before adding Verstappen is currently in "another league with a car so fast."

Speaking about Red Bull's pace on the straight line, Hamilton said it is "insane."

"He passed me halfway down the straight and he was like 10 metres ahead. They are just in another league. Until we pick up speed on the straight like they have, and have the crazy downforce they have through the corners, that's how it's going to continue," added Hamilton.

Red Bull still not as good as Hamilton's title-winning Mercedes

Verstappen, who denied Hamilton a record-breaking eighth drivers' title by winning the controversial 2021 F1 season, strongly denied those claims from his arch-rival.

"I think if you look at the statistics, then those statements are not correct," Verstappen told RacingNews365 NL.

The 25-year-old Dutch driver also believes that Red Bull, last year's world champions, are yet to create the level of dominance that Mercedes had during the period from 2014 to 2021, when they secured eight straight Constructors' titles.

"But we also do have a very good car. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Still, we are not as dominant as Mercedes has shown for some years. I don't pay much attention to that, that doesn't get you anywhere. Whatever we have done in the eight years that Mercedes is so dominant, we also tried to close the gap. That's the only thing you can do," added Verstappen, who currently has 69 points after three races in F1 2023.