Ex-F1 champ says Verstappen “a naughty boy”

Max Verstappen’s incredible 12 months in Formula One has been somewhat blurred by the politics of the sport. The Dutch driver clinched his first drivers’ title just under 12 months ago but his achievements were overshadowed by the controversy over the safety car restart in Abu Dhabi 2021 ordered by then race director Michael Massi.

The victorious moment Verstappen clinched the 2022 championship was delayed as the stewards in Japan deliberated over a penalty for Ferrari’s Charles LeClerc.

Yet the new double F1 champion has been quietly breaking numerous records this season as the competition has faded away.

F1 records tumbling

The Red Bull driver has already won more races in a single season than any F1 driver in history and should he claim victory in Brazil and Abu Dhabi his in season win % will beat Michael Schumacher’s record set in 2004. Only Albert Ascari will have a better win % set in 1952 when he won 6 of the 8 F1 events that year.

Prior to this season, Lewis Hamilton held the record for the most points scored in a season with tallies of 413 and 408 in 2019 and 2018 respectively. Max has already surpassed this record with his current 416 points scored already in 2022… despite two DNFs in the first three races.

Yet there are records the Red Bull driver could yet break in the final two rounds of the 2022 championship.

The retiring Sebastian Vettel holds the record for the biggest points winning margin from his last title winning year in 2013 where he beat Fernando Alonso by 155 points.

Hamilton and Verstappen are similar

Max is currently 136 points ahead of 2nd place championship driver Sergio Perez by 136 points with two rounds remaining. Were he to win the last two races he will be close to this record depending on how Perez and LeClerc are placed.

Verstappen actually already holds the record for the most podiums in a season with 18 from his maiden title-winning 2021 season, and he is on track to match it. With 16 this year already despite 2 DNF’s the world champion has only finished off the podium when he’s completed a race in Silverstone and Singapore.

However, ex-F1 Mcalren driver and double world champion Mika Hakkinen believes Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have similar traits which set the Dutchman for Formula One greatness.

“They are, first of all, great drivers,” Hakkinen said. “Lewis has shown over the years incredible skills and maturity, how he is talking about F1, himself, the fans. He’s a really great personality and of course his speed and experience on the racetrack is incredible.

“Max is still a young gentleman, he’s achieved incredible results even at his young age and is a real fighter out there.”

Toughest F1 racer in history

Verstappen is very media friendly, rarely putting a foot wrong when asked the difficult questions. Yet it’s his racing talent that pitches him alongside Hamilton’s feats of greatness in Hakkinen’s opinion.

“When you’re racing against him, you don’t want to be racing against him.

“I had a chance in my young age to race against Michael Schumacher and he was sometimes a ‘naughty boy’ and he didn’t give up.”

Both Lewis and Max have been a “naughty boy” at times. Most recently in 2021 when Hamilton took out his rival at Silverstone in a classic karting rear quarter tap and went on to win the GP. Max repaid the favor refusing to allow Hamilton room in Monza where both drivers collided at turn 1 and were out of the race.

Verstappen is also potentially on target to beat Hamilton’s record of a race win in consecutive seasons in F1. Since his debut in 2016 with the Reed Bull team Max has won an F1 event each year.

Max set to claim Hamilton’s records

Unless Lewis wins either of the final races, his consecutive run will end with 15 seasons in a row. Verstappen is now on 7 and just aged 25.

The Finnish ex-F1 world champion believes there are similarities between Hamilton and Verstappen.

“When we talk about Max and Lewis there’s some similar situations

“You have to know what risks you’re taking with the competitor you’re racing against. We’ve seen some incredible situations with Max and Lewis. They’re fantastic, talented drivers.”

And despite his age Mika sees Hamilton as strong as ever.

“Lewis has incredible physical and mental strength,” Hakkinen added.

“F1 is in a very interesting time at the moment, simply because testing time is very limited. So a driver who has the experience [is useful] not only for when there are different surprise pit stops and weather changes.

Verstappen delivers Red Bull greatest F1 season to date

Verstappen is incredibly precise with his steering wheel inputs and controls the car throughout the corner by using the pedals rather than sawing away at the wheel.

“It’s about car control. That develops at such a high level and that can prepare them for surprises and that makes a difference. That is why experience is something money can’t buy.

“It’s incredible and very impressive what Lewis has done.

“I’ve always known his speed and talent but it’s incredible how he’s developed as a human, his communication is so impressive, he’s a great example for the younger driver.”

Verstappen has delivered Red Bull Racing’s greatest ever F1 season to date and should Perez hold off Ferrari’s LeClerc, they will triumph with their first ever 1-2 in the drivers’ championship.

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