1979 Formula 1 World Champion Jody Scheckter has admitted that initially he didn’t like Max Verstappen, but now believes the Dutchman would’ve beaten every driver in his era.
Scheckter raced against some of the sport’s all-time greats, including the likes of Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Gilles Villeneuve and Emerson Fittipaldi.
Staggeringly, the South African believes Verstappen would’ve beaten them all, following his breathtaking 2023 campaign.
“He is better than anyone who ran in my era,” Scheckter told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Comparing drivers of different eras is incredibly difficult, given how much the sport has come on since when Sheckter competed.
It’s not just the cars which are safer, so are the circuits and the regulations regarding safety.
Back then, F1 was nowhere near as safe as it thankfully is today, as proven by the horrific fact that 12 drivers sadly died in the 70s.
Reflecting on his own career, Scheckter admits he was “lucky” to survive and that he was “a bit reckless” when he first got an F1 seat.
This is actually why he initially disliked Verstappen, as Scheckter wasn’t a fan of the 26-year-old’s driving style when he made the huge leap to F1 at 17 years old.
Verstappen was incredibly aggressive in his first few years in F1 and was often at fault for multiple collisions.
Just like himself, though, Scheckter points out that Verstappen has calmed down since recognising that races and titles aren’t won by colliding with others.
“The difference that is sometimes pointed out is that people say that in those days they were ‘real men’ who risked their lives. The cars often broke down – not the Ferrari but the Tyrrell did, for example. I realised later that I was lucky. My greatest success was to stay alive and I never even ended up in a helicopter to the hospital.
“I started out a bit reckless, like everyone, when you’re young you try to show talent and courage. Max did it too and I didn’t like the way he raced at the start of his career, because he showed no respect to the other drivers. Then the penny dropped with him too, that you don’t win races and especially championships if you cause incidents and contact with other cars.”