Max Verstappen has won a great deal of respect on his way to establishing himself as the hottest prospect in Formula 1.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2017, securing two titles in Malaysia and Mexico in addition to as many podium finishes.
Despite being peppered with ill fortune and forced to retire from seven races this year, Verstappen is clearly on track to become one of the leading drivers in the competition.
And, like many F1 fans around the world, the young Dutchman is in awe of achievements.
"I would have never expected to win a race [this year]", Verstappen said, per Motorsport.com.
"But already in Singapore, with the fuel upgrade we had there, I think we got a lot more competitive and we continued that trend.
"And when you are improving faster than the others around you then you can fight for victory. But I never really expected it because of my bad luck and stuff, but it was great to still achieve that."
Capturing the attention of the public is one thing, but Verstappen seems to be even more chuffed with the praise he’s drawn from his peers.
Reflecting on Lewis Hamilton saying he looks forward to battling with him in 2018, the Red Bull driver said: “Yeah, that was great.
"He is a great driver and he really deserved it this year because he was the most consistent and fastest driver from the guys who were fighting for the championship.
“I would love to [fight with Hamilton]. Hopefully we can do that already next year."
HOW VERSTAPPEN RATES HIS CHANCES
Fans cannot wait to see if Verstappen can be the man to prevent Hamilton from claiming a fifth world title – but does the young man believe he’s actually capable just yet?
"Of course, otherwise I wouldn't be driving in Formula 1. I would do something else if I thought I was not able to do it,” he said.
Asked whether he’s performing at the same level as the newly-crowned champion at present, Verstappen resorted to a more cautious response.
"Difficult to say, we are not in the same car and I haven't really been in the same position as him. And I also don't think about it. I just focus on what I have to do.”
Sebastian Vettel likely fancies himself as the main contender to overthrow Hamilton, but Verstappen must surely be close to being held in the same company.
No matter how well Hamilton drives in 2018, there’s every chance one of the chasing pack won’t be too far behind.
Can Verstappen challenge Hamilton for the 2018 F1 title? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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