In the Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen piloted his car home to P3 and by doing so, achieved his first podium finish of the season - although some can say he was fortunate after the Raikkonen's retirement and a slow pitstop for Vettel.
But his run to the finish was not straight forward. On lap 42 during the ending of the Virtual Safety Car period, Verstappen hit the back of the Williams of Lance Stroll who was going at a slower speed. The impact damaged the outside of part of his front wing but considering the amount of damage sustained, it was a surprise that he was not only able to stay ahead of Sebastian Vettel, he was even able to pull a gap to the German towards the end. But why is that? Was that Verstappen’s raw talent shining once again? Or does that incident show that Formula One front wings are overdone?
Max Verstappen is destined for greatness in Formula One. That seems to be a given. At his young age of 20, Verstappen has already achieved multiple podiums, front row starts and most importantly three race wins (Spain 2016, Malaysia 2017 and Mexico 2017).
He also seems to gain the upper hand over his more experienced teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, when it comes to qualifying and is always competing with The Australian in the races. No disrespect to Ricciardo though; his speed, great eye for overtakes and consistency is what brings him the good results.
Anyway, Verstappen’s aggressiveness, natural talent and massive self-belief is something we haven’t seen from a driver since the likes of Senna and Schumacher. Arguably, the start of the 2018 season has been the toughest period for Verstappen with retirements, mistakes and incidents and his teammate already winning a race, but this tough start has and will allow Verstappen to grow as a person and a racer.
The thing that has spoken the most volume to me is his self-belief. He has had his fair share of critics between the first five rounds of the season, maybe some a bit harsh but also some deservedly so, but Verstappen has always been able to ignore the critics and their questions.
Many times since his debut has Verstappen been asked about potentially changing his driving style and toning down his aggression and he will always answer the same way. He believes his style of racing is what has led him to be a Formula One race winner and refuses to change, almost like Schumacher during the early 1990’.
He has also had his fair share of comparisons, personally I compare him to Gilles Villeneuve. Verstappen is fast, massively fast and is arguably the most entertaining driver on the grid. Okay, Villeneuve never won a championship but that was partly due to his career being cut short. Throughout his short time in Formula One, Villeneuve never disappointed, he entertained and wanted to go fast wherever he was and whatever he was in. That’s no different to Verstappen. Personally, a great driver is able to prove themselves in a kart. For those who haven’t yet, research Verstappen’s European Karting Championship KZ race in 2013. From a young age he was gifted. I mean, it did help that his dad was a former Formula One driver who owned his own karting team, but Max still had to prove he was good enough in different categories.
But why did Verstappen struggle early on? Wanting it too much? I do not think wanting too much was the issue for his early mistakes. I put them down to Verstappen not reading the situation correctly nor patiently. But which driver hasn't made mistakes throughout his careers? Every successful driver goes through a period like Verstappen has been and has been able to show their class and prove their critics wrong.
The podium at the Spanish Grand Prix was to things to Verstappen I believe. Firstly, he needed a podium to regain his confidence and regain his momentum in racing. Secondly, he proved in Spain that he can get out of a bad run and eliminate past mistakes from his mind.
However, he will need to continue this newly found momentum during the next couple races. Obviously, with Monaco being the next round will be tough. But a race like Monaco, although can be extremely dull at times, separates the men against the boys. Verstappen will have to have his confidence under control as Monaco is not normally a track that promotes overtaking but this season especially, it is a circuit that is seeming to be a very competitive for the Red Bull racing team. Will Verstappen shine again? For the right or wrong reasons?
Will he go on to achieve greatness and success in Formula One like he is seemingly destined to? Or will he fall short throughout the rest of his career?
Let us know what you think.
by Stanley Jones