Max Verstappen has made the sport just about as special as it was during Michael Schumacher’s time.
Yes and no.
Max Verstappen has fought off successfully the massive challenge posed by Sir Lewis Hamilton, archrival to the Dutchman and truth be told, the only driver who looked certain to curb the Red Bull’s fiery run.
Max Verstappen has proven that regardless of the sometimes improving and the usually sandbagging Ferrari, victories this year only belong to Red Bull; Singapore’s outcome, of course, be damned.
If you look at the Verstappen level of domination, you’d find that single word answers or, at the most, two word responses seem the only way possible to pass judgment on a remarkable career that’s taking shape.
To some, he’s a great of the sport. He actually is; regardless of what anyone says, to have 48 wins under your belt is no joke. Kimi, Jenson and Felipe have together accounted for 49 wins.
That’s when Verstappen, with one more, will be matching the tally of three amazing drivers, two of the world champions, jointly accounted for.
To many others, the 26-year-old son of a Former Formula 1 driver is a product of a fast car and a well-oiled machinery that functions of superior engineering and the master craft of a genie called Adrian Newey.
In the course of being on the grid and racing, not merely driving, for nearly eight consecutive seasons, Max Verstappen hasn’t only fought drivers on the grid; but critics off it.
He has won, lost, crashed, driven poorly, at times, rashly and on several other occasions with nothing held back.
He’s led Red Bull from the front, become the blue-eyed boy of a man who doesn’t see anything too special in F1 beyond the navy blue colour and risen to become a giant in the works.
He’s proven too hard for his own teammate to beat, dismantled the Ferraris and eaten up Mercedes on his own.
Just hours away from capturing his third world title, Max Verstappen in 2023 has perhaps risen in stature as a modern day great of the sport, albeit a complicated one.
Fiery and fast, borderline tempestuous, and unquestionably bold, Verstappen has ‘Max’imised his opportunities at winning, setting a record breaking streak of 10 wins on the trot.
A feat like that, hitherto unseen in the F1 world, earned Verstappen appreciation from Vettel, a Red Bull hero and F1 great, and saw the current sensation of the sport beat the record of Ascari and Schumacher.
The trouble with Max, at times, is that he pushes to the limit, which is also the criticism leveled against him.
Not the safest driver to go wheel-to-wheel against and that’s a fact. But the thrill about Verstappen is also that he would be absolutely banal, dreary even if he weren’t this adventurous racer determined to risk everything in the pursuit of victory.
With 30 pole positions to his name already and not to forget, 92 podiums, Verstappen has clearly blazed a trail for many to follow.
And usually he leads and they follow. Well, that’s how the story of the last two seasons has been where combining skill and daring with a sense of ruthlessness, the Red Bull driver has bulldozed the rest of the field.
Another victory lays on the cards as the Belgium-born Dutch driver, a winner at Hungary, a champion of Spa, a performer at Zandvoort will hit the Losail in his RB 19.
The only question, however, now is whether anyone from the Mercedes or Aston Martin camp can stop him?
Hamilton can, and has, in the past. Alonso, the supreme leader, the Samurai among the Ninjas’ much younger to him, hasn’t really succeeded.
But does that mean anyone else can’t?
Again, what can one say about a man who elicits polarising results- often too hot to handle and on other times, reactions dawning in sheer awe?
Let the race begin.