Max Verstappen has never shied away from the legends of Formula 1. At the World Cup final last season, he ended Lewis Hamilton’s title streak after four years after a bitter fight for the title. About two weeks ago, the Dutchman became world champion in Japan for the second time – at only 25 years of age.
Can Verstappen become the greatest of all time?
After his victory in Suzuka he said: “I still have a few years in Formula 1. I hope that we will be successful in that time. I want to win many more races and hopefully many titles as well.”
At Red Bull, there’s no doubt that Verstappen will be the best of all time. Internally, it is believed that only an early career end due to a lack of motivation could be the reason that he misses this goal.
The Formula 1 superstar still needs five titles to catch up with Michael Schumacher (53) and Hamilton (37). But Verstappen has one thing ahead of the two legends: none of the record champions had two World Cup triumphs to show for their age.
Many in the paddock also believe that the Dutchman has what it takes to reach or even surpass the magic mark of seven titles. Felipe Massa, ex-Ferrari teammate and friend of Schumi, says: “Max can also become world champion ten times. His talent is immense, almost without limit.” Verstappen also has “nothing to lose. Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton were already of advanced age and didn’t have that much time left when they reached the peak of their success. Max is still very young,” said the 41-year-old Brazilian.
Hamilton was able to win the World Cup for the first time in 2008 at the age of 23, a year earlier than Verstappen. But: The Brit only won his second title six years later at the age of 29. Ayrton Senna († 34), Alain Prost (67), Niki Lauda († 70), Juan Manuel Fangio († 84) and Schumacher were older for their second title. Only Sebastian Vettel (35) was younger than Verstappen at 24 years and 98 days. The Dutchman was 25 years and 9 days old for title number two.
His team boss Christian Horner (48) explains: “Max is one of the most talented drivers of all time and has an incredible dedication to the sport. In addition, he is extremely cool for his age.” Massa adds: “He had weaknesses in the past, sometimes took too many risks and tried the crowbar. But since winning the title in 2021 he’s been incredible. I no longer see any weaknesses in him.”
In the rain, Verstappen drives as safely as Schumi once did. The Red Bull driver understands and protects the tires as well as Hamilton. The driving experience is comparable to that of Senna. Verstappen has the complete package. The competition knows that too. Before the Dutchman’s home race in Zandvoort, McLaren driver Lando Norris (22) answered the question of whether he liked the trophy and would like to win it: “It’s Max’s anyway.” Verstappen won his home Grand Prix with ease .
Verstappen is the driver of his generation. With Norris, Mercedes driver George Russell (24) and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (24), there are three other drivers in addition to the Dutchman who have the potential to become future multiple world champions. “It’s one of the strongest generations of all time – and yet Max is a level above the rest,” says Massa.
Verstappen has 32 wins and 18 pole positions in 159 races. Hamilton holds the record with 103 Grand Prix successes and pole positions. The Red Bull driver is still at a disadvantage when it comes to the win rate. He wins 20.13 percent of his races. While Senna (25.47) and Prost (25.76) only just surpass him, Schumacher’s (29.74) value is significantly higher. Hamilton even has a win rate of 33.66 percent.
Massa said: “For me, Max is still one of the top 5 of all time – behind Schumi, Senna, Hamilton and Fangio. He has a huge chance of becoming the best of all time. All he needs is patience, perseverance and a team that puts a good car in front of him. It will not fail because of him!”
On Sunday he should be the center of attention again at the US Grand Prix in Austin (9 p.m., in the WELT sports ticker). There’s also a title up for grabs. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 Mercedes won the Constructors’ Championship. From the prestige behind the drivers’ standings, from the financial importance in front of it. The ranking serves as the distribution key for the TV funds. This year, the coronation return of the former series triumphant Red Bull is also imminent. The racing team last won the Team World Championship in 2013. With a 165-point lead over Ferrari, the team arrives with a commanding lead. After the race, there are still 147 points left over the Scuderia, so the next title party is perfect.
And it’s also a record. In 2004, Michael Schumacher won 13 races in a Ferrari in his last year as world champion. In 2013, Sebastian Vettel succeeded in the Red Bull, also in his last title year. Max Verstappen, the old champion and new champion since Japan a week and a half ago, has won twelve races of the season so far. If he wins in Austin, he draws level with Schumacher and Vettel – and then has three more opportunities to overtake them.
The text was written for the sports competence center (WELT, SPORT BILD, BILD) and first published in SPORT BILD.