Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has praised new world champion Max Verstappen’s ability to constantly drive on the limit and make ambitious moves stick.
Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton were on another level in 2021, taking 18 of the 22 race wins between them in what was a thrilling title battle for the ages.
However, the racing was occasionally marred by collisions – most notably in Silverstone, Monza and Saudi Arabia – while they were also involved in a close-call at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.
And on the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Verstappen claimed the title with another late move into Turn 5, exemplifying his philosophy of going for any gap that his rivals leave for him.
Dr Marko admires the Dutchman’s ability to not only take risks, but make them pay off too.
“You could see he drove the car so over the limit, that was visible,” he said in conversation Austrian magazine Autorevue.
“And in the races, Hamilton should already know you can’t leave the smallest gap open to Verstappen.
“He’s already stabbing you before the other person sees him in the rear-view mirror.
“This incredible willpower with the necessary talent makes all the difference.”
Both the 24-year-old and the seven-time world champion have been compared to Formula 1 greats such as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost in the past, but the Austrian finds it nearly impossible to compare drivers from eras where the cars and regulations were enormously distinct to now.
“You can’t possibly compare them because they all raced in different periods,” he explained.
However, the 78-year-old was able to pinpoint the common quality that all great champions need to have.
“What they all have is a complete focus. You could also call it ruthlessness,” explained Dr Marko.
“There is nothing else but ‘I want to win and I’ll do anything for it.’”
He cited Verstappen’s qualifying lap in Saudi Arabia, in which the Dutchman was pushing hard and was on for one of the most sensational laps of the season before he exceeded the limit of the car and slammed into the barrier at the final corner.
“And they grow beyond possibilities that don’t normally exist. That reminds me of Max’s qualifying lap in Jeddah,” stated the Austrian.
Red Bull will once again line up with Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez in 2022.