While former Ferrari boss, Jean Todt, cannot speak to Max Verstappen’s demeanour as a person, he can draw similarities between him and Michael Schumacher on the racetrack.
Schumacher won his first world title in 1994 with Benetton, but he did so in controversial circumstances, hitting Damon Hill in the final race in Adelaide.
Another crown would follow a year later, but he left Ross Brawn’s team to join Ferrari in 1996, and four relentless years of work led him to the first of five consecutive world titles in 2000.
Kind to his mechanics off the track, as well as extremely meticulous and dedicated to the development of the car, the seven-time champion was also extremely robust on the track, and he was perennially capable of doing whatever it took to win.
While this, at times, earned him criticism, it is one of many reasons – his incredible ability being another – that he became one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time.
Verstappen had completed just one season in single seaters before making his way up to the pinnacle of motorsport with Toro Rosso, and he quickly established himself as one of the most clinical racers on the grid.
Fast forward seven years, and he is on the verge of wrapping up his second world title following his dramatic 2021 success.
The Dutchman has won 11 races so far this year, and there are still six races to go. With a 116-point lead over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s dominance epitomises the unbelievable standard he has been setting in recent years.
Todt does not know the 24-year-old personally, but he can draw comparisons between him and Schumacher.
“I know Michael very well, but not Max. Max, like Michael, is very determined, very aggressive,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Michael off the track is a wonderful person. About Max, I don’t know, I can’t say. Now I see him all focused on racing, rightly so.
“Then of course, they both had great cars. Because to win, every driver, no matter how exceptional, needs a competitive car.”
Leclerc won two of the first three rounds of the 2022 season, but a mixture of exceptional development by Red Bull, as well as a litany of mistakes from the Scuderia, have cost the Monegasque greatly.
Todt was somewhat cryptic when analysing what has gone wrong for Leclerc since the Australian Grand Prix.
“Charles is already a great champion [but] he still lacks something, I hope he has it soon,” he said.
When asked specifically what the Ferrari driver does not have in his locker, the former FIA president replied, “he lacks something…”
Ferrari have taken 10 pole positions this year, if Carlos Sainz’s Belgian Grand Prix starting position is to be counted, bit they have won just four races.
Strategic errors, reliability issues and a lack of race pace compared with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have been costly.
Todt sees no reason why this Ferrari team cannot win the title in the coming years, but some of the almost comical mistakes we have seen in 2022 cannot keep happening.
“Ferrari at one point had the best car in the championship, then they missed certain opportunities,” he explained.
“I’m thinking of strategy, a Safety Car that came in at the wrong time, reliability problems. Different episodes had a cost.
“We have to reflect on this to avoid them happening again. Never leave anything to chance. And if you manage to leave nothing taken for granted, all the ingredients are there to be champions.”
Red Bull lead Ferrari by 139 points heading into this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.