Nigel Mansell: Lewis Hamilton the man to beat

Lewis Hamilton snowboarding during the off-season
Lewis Hamilton snowboarding during the off-season

Lewis Hamilton is the "hot favourite" to win another F1 world title in 2018, according to former world champion Nigel Mansell.

But the 1992 champion believes Max Verstappen is ready to challenge for his maiden crown as Red Bull aim to make the 20-year-old F1's youngest-ever champion.

Hamilton and Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel are tied on four championships apiece heading into the new season, but Mansell believes it is the Englishman's team which gives the reigning champion an extra edge.

"Lewis' strength is the team, Mercedes," Mansell told Sky Sports News at the Autosport International Show.

"The depth and capacity of the Mercedes team is second to none in Formula 1.

"This year let's hope a few more teams are pitching in there but, for me, Lewis is hot favourite for getting another championship in 2018."

Hamilton is 6/5 favourite with Sky Bet ahead of Vettel at 7/2, but Mansell is also expecting big things from Red Bull and their highly-rated pairing.

"I hope Sebastian Vettel gets over his little challenges in 2017 and we can have an absolutely fantastic year," said the former Ferrari driver.

"Red Bull should be challenging. Daniel Ricciardo is a marvellous driver and Max Verstappen is ready to try and win his first world championship."

Max Verstappen was quickest in final practice
Max Verstappen is 4/1 for the world title

Hamilton enjoyed a record-breaking season on the track in 2017, winning a British-record fourth F1 title and breaking Michael Schumacher's all-time pole record, but ended the year facing fresh criticism about his use of social media.

Hamilton has since wiped his Twitter and Instagram accounts, which have a combined following of 5.9m, with his last social media update posted on Facebook on Christmas Day.

Mansell, one of Britain's biggest sports stars of the 1980s and 1990s, has urged his compatriot to weather the latest off-track storm and focus on setting further milestones on track in F1 2018.

"What I would encourage Lewis and his fans to get across, he has an incredible opportunity to set new records," said Mansell.

"You're in the best team with the best car, there isn't the depth of competition there used to be, make hay when the sun shines. Just like Michael Schumacher did for three or four years.

"I really hope Lewis keeps his focus. The other problems will go away. Lewis is a fabulous driver and you get him on a good day and everyone understands him, we love it. We really do. Everyone is entitled to have some difficult days, there is a lot of pressure on him and I hope he has a wonderful year."

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