Max Verstappen equaled Ayrton Senna in the number of titles, the driver compared to Helmut Marko almost a decade ago, which created a huge stir.
When Max Verstappen arrived in Formula 1 in 2015, he did just that creates a lot of trouble around him. The Dutchman is almost 17 years old, and made his first attempt when he was only 16 years old. Red Bull has seen his progress since karting, where Max has won almost everything, and he does not want to escape.
It doesn’t matter to them that the Dutchman has only completed one single-seater season in Formula 3: they will put him in an F1 to prevent Mercedes – who are also behind him – from taking his services.
Only Red Bull, with two teams on the grid, was willing to give Verstappen a seat and take that risk … although that also complicated the jump on the grid for Carlos Sainz, who could not see his presence on the grid assured until Vettel left for Ferrari, prompting the promotion of Kvyat – set to be Max’s partner in 2015 at Toro Rosso – to Red Bull and thus freeing his seat.
Helmut Marko, one of Verstappen’s main defenders and one of the first people to blindly trust him despite his youth and lack of experience, justified his signing in every possible way, even if it left the Verstappen from the grid. he won the World Series), or Jean-Éric Vergne.
One of the most famous statements happened in mid-September 2014, when Max completed his first test behind the wheel of an F1. What Marko saw in the Dutchman allowing him to be compared to Ayrton Senna. “He’s a rare talent, one of those that comes along once in decades…” said the Austrian in an interview with the official F1 website.
When asked which other driver he compares to him, Marko dropped the ‘bomb’, the others words that I know have global visibility created some controversy and would allow him to justify such a risky move. The risk is, above all, before the rest of Red Bull and before the image of F1, because it is somehow a ‘controlled’ risk.
As we have seen over the years, if a driver does not perform at Toro Rosso (or now AlphaTauri), neither Helmut Marko nor those around the team will not hesitate to fire him. A few months ago, it happened to Nyck de Vries, who was fired after only 10 starters.
“I would probably compare him to Ayrton Senna. You don’t need to look at her age. “He talks to people who are experts in youth development and they all say he has the mentality of a 22-year-old rather than a 16-year-old,” Helmut said.
“As for his driving skills, he has been racing professionally since he was four years old. So we hope it will be competitive from the first race. We’re not playing the lottery, we know what we’re doing. And the success proved us right,” he added.
Marko’s expectations were fulfilled and Verstappen has been in the points since almost the start of the season. In his second race, in Malaysia, he achieved seventh place. In a course that started very tight with Carlos Sainz, and where the aggressiveness of the track became a (dangerous) quality of his driving, Verstappen showed enough in Red Bull.
The two fourth places were achieved in Singapore and the United States, with the fact that Daniil Kvyat made some mistakes at the beginning of the next season, in 2016, They let Max jump to Red Bull from the Spanish GP forever.
Verstappen won that race, the first of many,… and boy did the risk Marko and the rest of Red Bull pay off. Soon Max matures, abandons the mistakes of his over-aggressiveness, and becomes very effective.
In 2021, measure and beat Lewis Hamilton for the title in a battle until the last lap of the last race – controversies aside – hit the table. His champion credentials are confirmed.
Three-time F1 world champion… like Ayrton Senna
Comparing current drivers to former glories or legends is not very elegant, especially because it is unfair to them. We currently have more than 20 races on the calendar, F1 cars are very different, almost indestructible, and drivers don’t risk their lives in the same way…but numbers are numbers.
And, from today, Max Verstappen is a three-time world champion … like Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart or his father-in-law Nelson Piquet. Now we can agree with Helmut Marko. Helmut was not wrong to see the future Senna in him, at least with the numbers in hand and, perhaps, he did not fail even in terms of driving style and explosiveness-effectiveness.
But Max has already made a name for himself in F1. He made a place for himself in the Olympus of Champions in the main category of motorsport, and it is difficult to make predictions about how far it will go.
Currently, with Red Bull, he has managed to put together a very competitive team, where he does not have his biggest rival at home – such as Prost for Senna, Mansell for Piquet or Hunt for Lauda -, as long as he has a good car and the team doesn’t change, it seems unstoppable…