Is Max Verstappen the F1 G.O.A.T?

Max Verstappen is in a class of his own and this season proves it. The grand prix in Qatar confirmed what we’d all known had been on the cards, as the Dutchman wrapped up his 14th win of the season and with it an emphatic third straight World Championship. His gargantuan tally of 433 points is now insurmountable as he secures the title with five races to spare. However, if the field of his rivals are hoping the 26-year-old is about to enter cruise control for the remainder of the campaign then they will be sadly disappointed.

The World Champion is just one win shy of his own record tally of 15 wins in a single F1 campaign in 2022 and will be desperate to better his efforts in 2023. He is also on track to beat his record points tally of 454 as well as his record winning margin of 146 points, again from last year as he sets his sights on definitively becoming the most dominant driver of this or any other generation.

It is fast becoming apparent that few could hope to challenge next season or even the season after that if Verstappen continues in this fashion. He is undoubtedly one of the best drivers to ever grace F1 but where exactly does he rank amongst the greatest of all time?

For most neutrals of the sport, looking at the standings would tell you everything you need to know about the Dutchman’s supremacy this season but numbers alone would sell his accomplishments short. His tally of 10 pole positions is impressive but it bears no comparison to the fact he has won all but three of the 17 races so far this campaign, putting together a run of 10 wins in a row and only finishing outside the top two on one occasion in Singapore. While Verstappen obviously deserves his plaudits for this phenomenal accomplishment, so too does the team.

Red Bull’s near-perfect back-to-back campaigns have not only ended Lewis Hamilton’s stranglehold on the World Championship but also Mercedes’ monopoly on the Constructor’s Championship. The strategy has been immaculate and the RB19 has gotten better and better as the season has gone on. Principal of Red Bull Racing Christian Horner has been ecstatic with the performances this season and following victory in Qatar went on to laud the achievements of Verstappen and his team. Speaking in a press conference after the event he said:

“Abu Dhabi was obviously insane a couple of years ago, but the last couple of years have just been out of this world in terms of the level that the team’s been operating at. The way that Max has been driving and of course the amount of races that he’s won, he’s been absolutely dominant not just this year but for the last couple of years. His ability to adapt and be at one with the car is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. He wants it all, and that drives and motivates the team internally.

He doesn’t want to just win, he wants to dominate, and I think you see that in any great sportsman really that their pursuit of excellence, their pursuit of not just wanting to beat but to totally dominate the opposition is again a hallmark of what makes him such an exceptional talent.”

So few drivers have managed to win three World Championships, and even fewer in such emphatic fashion. The manner of his triumphs might just be the most dominant we’ve ever seen and that certainly means the last few seasons are worthy of the moniker of G.O.A.T. However, statistically speaking, despite the countless records Verstappen has broken, overall he still has a long way to go to definitively be labelled the greatest driver of all time.

His incredible tally of 49 wins and 30 pole positions is impressive but still only has him in fifth on the all-time wins list. While only four wins behind fellow Red Bull World Champion Sebastian Vettel, he is a massive 42 wins behind the legendary Michael Schumacher and an enormous 55 wins behind the current all-time wins record holder and title counterpart Lewis Hamilton. He also trails all three aforementioned drivers in the World Championships leaderboard, sitting in fifth while Vettel has four, and Schumacher tied with Hamilton for top spot on seven. Even when it comes to all-time points tallies the Dutchman is lagging behind.

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While the World Champ overtook Fernando Alonso for third place on the list courtesy of his victory in Monaco earlier this season he is still trailing behind Vettel and that pesky nuisance Hamilton once again. His total of 2444.5 points gigantic and he will of course add to it in the seasons to come but the deficit currently stands at just over 600 points from second place Vettel and 2100 points from outright leader Hamilton. While his stranglehold on F1 is evident for now, should that change then his task of chasing down is set to become even harder, especially with the Brit still gunning for that elusive and record-setting eight World Championship.

Also worth consideration is the fact that Verstappen has raced his entire career under the new points system. Firstly it shows how impressive the 38-year-old Brit’s haul is but it also somewhat undermines Verstappen’s high ranking on this list, given that most of the legendary racers in the G.O.A.T conversation would’ve had to make do with a fraction of the points per win that Verstappen has earned.

Mad Max is well on his way to establishing himself as the greatest driver of a generation and based on his current trajectory he could yet eclipse all these records in due course. However, the question that looms largest is whether he can achieve the consistency necessary to do just that. He’s on track for now but whether that lasts is another question entirely.

He has set the standard by which everyone is judged for the last two years but he would need to win five races each year over the course of the next 13 seasons to stand alone as the all-time leader in wins. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, but by no means is it a certainty either. There is still work to be done and longevity will be the key but as the dominant spells of Schumacher, Hamilton and Vettel tell you, there is no guarantee success will last along with it.

Age is on his side but it will take heaps of mental fortitude and determination to leap this hurdle. He’s got a shot, but he’s not the G.O.A.T just yet.