Many of the great drivers in Formula One have been defined by one or more races during their career, usually a race where they showed of their supreme talent in adverse weather conditions. Ayrton Senna’s race for Toleman in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, which he would have won if it wasn’t for the race director stopping it early. Senna also dominated at Donington in 1993, going from sixth to first in one lap. In more recent times, Michael Schumacher’s first Ferrari win, and Lewis Hamilton’s first win at Silverstone were both outstanding performances, with both drivers winning by over 40 seconds. Although he may not have won on Sunday, many will look back and see this is the weekend where Max Verstappen showed he can become an all-time great of the sport.
Verstappen was fast tracked into Formula One at the end of the 2014, with both Mercedes and Red Bull after the Dutchman’s signature. In the end, Red Bull’s offer of a race seat for 2015 in their Toro Rosso team was too tempting to refuse, leading to Max becoming the youngest ever driver to take part in an official session, just three days after his seventeenth birthday. A few drivers were worried at the prospect of someone who wasn’t legally allowed to drive on public roads, racing against them at 200mph. But he quickly put those doubts to bed, qualifying sixth in only his second ever race, and becoming only the third teenager to score points.
After a successful debut season, he was fast tracked into the senior team at the expense of Daniil Kvyat, and won his first race with the team in Spain, holding off Kimi Raikkonen to become the youngest ever winner at 18 years and 228 days. Raikkonen has been a vocal critic of Max’s driving, especially after their battle at the Belgian GP, where the Ferrari driver was nearly forced off of the circuit, before going on an expletive-laden rant over the radio. Sebastian Vettel, the other Ferrari driver, has also been on the receiving end of Max’s defensive driving, with the latter’s corner cutting in Mexico costing him a podium.
Brazil was a weekend where Verstappen left the audience in awe of his driving talent. After a superb overtake on championship leader Nico Rosberg put him in second place, a strategy mistake by the team dropped him to sixteenth, with less than twenty laps remaining. Aided by Alonso’s spin, he quickly began to make his way through the field, passing eight cars in eight laps, including his team mate Daniel Ricciardo. Hulkenberg and Vettel were his next targets, with the Ferrari driver suggesting that Max’s move was ‘not acceptable’. Sergio Perez tried his best to hold off the Dutchman, but there was nothing he could do to stop Verstappen finishing third, and collecting his seventh podium of the season.
Although the last three championship battles have been Hamilton versus Rosberg, it is hoped that 2017’s regulation shake up will alter the status quo of the sport. If Red Bull can show the form that took them to four consecutive titles, there is no reason why Max can’t win multiple titles, and perhaps become the greatest driver the sport has ever seen.
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