Courtesy of Red Bull Motorsports
Dutchman out to extend amazing run of 21 top-five results at Belgian GP.
Max Verstappen has bounced back brilliantly from the frustrating start to his 2018 Formula 1 season with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing by reeling off 21 top-five finishes since his 2018 retirement in Hungary, including two memorable victories in his last four 2019 races.
The Dutchman has now become a contender for the 2019 title, if reigning champion Lewis Hamilton begins to falter, but what more can we expect from the 21-year-old? Here is all you need to know:
– After reeling off a string of top-10 rookie results for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2015, Verstappen was promoted to the senior team for the 2016 Spanish GP.
– His brilliant Aston Martin Red Bull Racing debut ended with a famous victory at Barcelona, which he consolidated with six further 2016 podiums.
– 2017 wins in Malaysia and Mexico raised expectations higher before the reality check of a slow start to 2018 saw many raise questions about his temperament.
– According to the constructors’ standings the last two seasons, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing have been the third best team behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
– Verstappen, though, has taken the criticism on board and come back stronger to make his team principal Christian Horner‘s decision to extend his deal to the end of the 2020 season a very wise decision indeed.
– The consensus in F1 would suggest a driver reaches his speed peak in his mid-to-late 20s, while hitting the overall peak of his powers in his late 20s to early 30s.
– The former karting star is now in his fifth F1 season and already facing the prospect of his 100th Grand Prix in Austin, so he could reach his prime even earlier.
– 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, who listed Verstappen’s best attributes as natural talent, self-confidence and commitment, said on his YouTube channel: “At the moment, Max Verstappen is the best F1 driver out there, even better – slightly better – than Lewis.”
– Horner told Autosport after Max’s Austrian GP win: “As the driver in the form of his life, arguably over the past 12 months, he’s been the best in the world. How do I substantiate that? He’s not in the best car. When you look at the results he’s got out of that car since Montreal last year, he’s made virtually zero mistakes.”
– The departure of Daniel Ricciardo seems to have pushed Max to another level as Horner explained: “Max always came a little bit within Daniel’s shadow and was the jokey younger brother. Since Daniel left, Max has assumed the responsibility of the senior driver.”
– Victories are one thing, but stringing together pole positions is another and his first ever pole in Budapest this season suggests that he has matured overall.
– Even though Hamilton finally got past him in Hungary, all the indicators suggest that Verstappen is far from his prime which should scare the F1 grid even more.
– If he can push Hamilton hard for the remainder of the 2019 season and claim second place in the standings from Finn Valtteri Bottas, then his improvement on track and the return to form of the Honda engine in the car could signal a title charge from the outset in 2020.