At the GP of Canada, Max Verstappen’s first season in Formula 1 ended its first trimester. He arrived in Montreal on the back of a heavy crash in Monaco, and let’s say that he was a topic of discussion…
Even before Max had crashed any F1 car, he was already the topic of much discussion anyway. Because when he debuted at 17, he was almost 2 years younger than the youngest F1 driver before him. And many have burned him down over it on forehand. For instance, ex-world champion and F1 dropout, Jacques Villeneuve even stated that Max’ participation was “the worst thing ever for Formula 1″…
F1 is too easy….
Just like many other sports, there has always been a lot of complaining about F1. The latest complaint is that F1 is too easy to drive. It must be, if a 17-year-old can do it… But that’s just shortsighted dribble; F1 is anything but easy. Worldwide there are millions dreaming of F1, and in 2015 only 20 made it. Some of these 20 still needed millions to buy their way in, but make no mistake, they’re the cream of the crop, each and every one.
In 2002, three-time world champ Niki Lauda was team boss at Jaguar. He also bitched about the electronic aides that made the cars so easy “even a monkey could drive an F1″. Well, Niki got his chance to try the modern machinery in Valencia. He spun twice and was 15 seconds per lap slower than regular driver Pedro de la Rosa in the same car…
F1 is anything but easy
To excel in a race car is extremely difficult. The challenges may vary per car, but only the best will be fast. Just like old F1’s weren’t easy because they didn’t have buttons on the steering wheel, modern cars aren’t easy because they require less biceps. The reason why Max is already an F1 driver, is that he’s probably the first ever who has been ready at age 17. Sure, he’s still learning, but with not even a year and a half in any race car under his belt, his race craft and overtakes are already top of the class.
Did Marc Marquez’ world title at 20 years old devalue MotoGP? Was Mozart’s first symphony at age 8 the worst thing ever for classical music (or as they called it back then “music”)? No, they were exciting superstars in the making. Max has all the ingredients for stardom too, and if he keeps developing from where he is already, we may witness how this exciting driver evolves from prodigy to superstar.
Monaco gave some critics what they had been waiting for: Max’ first mistakes. He first spun and damaged an end plate in free practice and later crashed quite heavily in the race. Some immediately cheered that this was the result of his young age. But after a damage-free 5 race weekends and 5 winter tests, that’s a rather silly statement.
His crash had much to do with his attacking style. Because he took risks that most others couldn’t master or didn’t dare to take, he brought excitement to the snore-fest that was the Monaco GP. But when he ran into the back of the heavily defending Romain Grosjean, he made an error. And when you race on the limit, errors will happen, just like Grosjean himself made one at the expense of Will Stevens a race later. The only difference was that Romain apologized afterwards, whereas Max showed no regrets over the crash that effectively ended both their races. Even if he believed that Romain shared in the blame, a little diplomacy would’ve been nice.
First and foremost; The Torro Rosso teammates Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz jr have been getting along well. Because of Max’ age, the media attention hasn’t been on Sainz much, but make no mistake, 20-year-old Carlos is a huge talent. As part of the Red Bull talent program, he has spent 5 years in the junior-formulas. In 2014 he won the Formula Renault 3.5 title, one of the two main steppingstones to F1. Max on the other hand has only raced cars for a single year before he made it to F1, and sometimes this difference in experience shows.
After 7 races Carlos has a slight edge in qualifying, whereas Max has been better at starts and first laps. Carlos has scored more points, whereas Max has been better at overtaking. Overall you might say that Carlos has done slightly better so far, but then only Max has shown flashes of brilliance. His passing maneuvers in China, his 3rd and 6th positions during his first-ever wet qualifying in Malaysia, his 2nd position during his first-ever practice in Monaco. All these were incredible achievements that display Max’ huge potential.
The Max Verstappen report
It’s clear that he still has a lot to learn. For instance, he needs more time to fully familiarize himself with the required setups, tire behavior and driving during qualifying. But especially his race craft is already impressive and refreshing; he’s smart, aggressive and doesn’t make many mistakes. So even though Max is still learning, he’s already at a level that’s A: worthy of F1 and B: adding some much needed excitement. Formula 1 is better off with Max in it.
Photos by: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool, Sauber F1