Max Verstappen needed to be very aggressive and take all the opportunities that presented themselves to triumph in 2021, in contrast to Sir Lewis Hamilton, who has won his F1 championships in a “very clean way.”
That’s according to ex-F1 driver David Coulthard, who suggested that the Brit can afford to be less aggressive due to him often driving a much-superior car.
Verstappen won 10 races last season and finished on the podium on 18 occasions en route to championship glory.
He dramatically beat Hamilton to the championship on the final lap of the season finale in Abu Dhabi, after a controversial decision by race director Michael Masi to allow only the five lapped cars between the race leaders to un-lap themselves.
This gave Verstappen, who had just pitted for a set of soft tyres, a clear run at Hamilton on the final lap of the 2021 season.
Coulthard, who also drove for Red Bull during his F1 career, has hailed Verstappen’s mental toughness and described the Dutchman as an “exceptional human.”
“He’s [Verstappen] an exceptional human, an exceptional athlete. He’s brilliant and divisive. Who else do we know that’s brilliant and divisive? Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, to name but a few. So some have been able to do it,” Coulthard said.
The 50-year-old concedes that the manner of Verstappen’s win in Abu Dhabi was contentious, but he believes that Hamilton is more averse to the aggressive approach than Verstappen, which helped the Red Bull driver triumph this year.
“In fairness to Lewis he’s been able to win an amazing amount of championships in a very clean way. He hasn’t really had too much controversy.
“With the might of Mercedes and Lewis, Max has had to arguably come with a different approach. His approach is, whenever there is a door partially open, he’ll go for it.”
The former Williams, McLaren and Red Bull driver also reckons that Verstappen has got into the mind of the seven-time world champion.
“And Lewis has to keep opening up the door because he knows he’s coming and that’s got in the psyche of Lewis.”
The Briton appreciates the habitually victorious ways of the 24-year-old Dutchman, and he accredits Verstappen’s fearless nature with this.
“Max has had to fight for it and has been a winner all the way through, skipping some of the lower formulas to come into Formula 1. He fears nobody. That’s not a part of his psyche. The thing that I find most impressive is, if there’s a gap, he goes for it. There’s not even a doubt.”
13-time F1 race winner Coulthard says that this differs from his own approach as a racing driver, saying that Verstappen is not as measured.
“When I was racing, I used to weigh up ‘should I risk it now, should I not risk it?’ He just goes for it. It really is quite special.”
Following a highly controversial end to the year, it has been speculated that Hamilton may be deterred from returning to Formula 1 in 2022.
Verstappen, among others, has stated that he would like the 36-year-old to stay.
Meanwhile, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has offered an explanation for Hamilton’s media blackout since the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Austrian suggested that Hamilton has lost faith in Formula 1 and said he “simply lacks words” after what transpired in Abu Dhabi.
“We are all wavering in emotions and Lewis most of all,” said Wolff.
“He won the world championship until the last lap, and then everything is taken away from you from one second [to the next]. Of course you lose faith because you can’t understand what has just happened.”
“The silence is there, of course, because he simply lacks words as well,” the Mercedes team principal and co-owner added.