Former Formula 1 driver Gerhard Berger has indicated that he does not believe Max Verstappen would have won the championship last year were it not for his belligerence on track, as Sir Lewis Hamilton had the faster car.
Verstappen came together on multiple occasions with title rival Hamilton as they battled it out for the world championship, and a Mercedes employee noted after their nasty crash at the British Grand Prix was “exactly the right lesson” for the Dutchman to learn due to his arguably excessive aggression on the racetrack.
The 24-year-old claimed 10 race wins and finished on the podium 18 times in 2021, eventually wrapping up the championship in highly controversial circumstances on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Gran Prix following a bizarre Safety Car restart.
Berger is not sure he would have achieved the ultimate goal in the pinnacle of motorsport without his aggressive racing style.
“Last year he had to be aggressive, because Lewis’ car was better,” said Berger.
“If he had not been so aggressive, he would not have had a chance to win the championship in the end. So he did what he had to do.”
Mika Hakkinen has previously warned of consequences akin to the Finn’s horrifying accident at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide in 1995, and Berger reiterated that the battling between last year’s title protagonists could well lead to accidents of a higher severity than they have thus far experienced.
“If the car is the best this year, then maybe he will adapt and do it in a different way because that aggressiveness is not needed anymore,” he added.
“Because when you drive so aggressively and it doesn’t work, you hit each other or you crash out, that hurts.”
Red Bull look to have an advantage over the Silver Arrows this season, but Mercedes are anticipating “easy gains” on them and Ferrari as a result of upgrades they will be introducing in the coming weeks.