MU MUCH MISTAKEN…
Brabham, Jim Clark, Mika Häkkinen, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel, all had less successful starts – usually because of relative inexperience or because their cars failed to match their talents. Even Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, who won no fewer than ten world championships between them, failed to win in their first years. In Senna’s case because his Toleman car wasn’t up to it, although he so very nearly brought it home first at that amazing Monaco GP of 1984.
Max Verstappen may not have been a firstyear winner with Toro Rosso in 2015 but, at his tender age, with his lack of F1 experience and the competition he faced, you’d hardly expect him to have been. But look where he is now after just one season in which he drove magnificently and made himself the hottest property in F1. That he is very special has always been clear, but his incredible win on his first drive for Red Bull puts him right up there with the greats of the past.
Like Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Nico Rosberg he is a second-generation F1 racer, with competitive genes inherited from his ex-Benetton F1 driver Jos, and his mother, Sophie, a Belgian karting champion. Having started in karts aged four-and-a-half and gone on to become a multiple champion, guided every inch of the way by his demanding father, Max bypassed GP2 and reached F1 at the unprecedented age of 17 thanks to hard-nosed favouring by Red Bull’s formidable talent spotter, Helmut Marko. Now, just one year on, with his promotion from Toro Rosso to the elite Red Bull team, he is not just a winner but the youngest winner in the 66-year history of F1. Incredible. An amazing achievement.
Prior to Spain and with an eye to the past, I would have been tempted to remind us all that although Verstappen has made an awesome start, anything can happen in F1 – and it usually does – and continued success is by no means a forgone conclusion. However, with youth on his side, a mature personality, immense talent, a place in a top team on the cusp of regaining titlewinning ability and a determined father to guide him, it is surely only a matter of time before he becomes Holland’s first-ever champion – although his mum maintains that he is Belgian!
Whatever, I’m mighty glad I’ve been there to enjoy such a devastating talent.