It’s a well-established fact that the best drivers in Formula 1 tend to drive for the best teams. During the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen achieved his 41st victory, matching the number of wins the legendary Ayrton Senna achieved before his untimely passing. And as we all know, Senna is regarded as one of the all-time greats if not the greatest Formula racer of them all. Senna was almost shrouded in an ethereal aura with a clear destiny. He elevated the sport of F1 to unprecedented heights, with only a select few following in his footsteps such as Schumacher, Alonso, and Hamilton.
Each then is different, with different temperaments, characters and personalities but all possess two qualities, relentless drive and determination. At some point in their careers, they all had one thing in common – they drove cars that were not the best. Senna’s skill and talent were evident when he drove a less competitive car. In 1993, he won five races with his sub-optimal McLaren, triumphing over the Williams Fw15, the most advanced Formula One car at that time.
Senna’s victory at the 1993 European Grand Prix in Donnington was nothing short of miraculous. Williams had Alian Prost as the lead driver and Senna made Prost and the superiority of the Williams look ordinary in his ordinary McLaren. Shucmacher’s first season at Ferrari is another example of a driver pushing sub-optimal machinery to its limits and winning. Ferrari provided sub-optimal car for Alonso in 2014, and Alonso nearly won the championship.
The competition between Hamilton’s Mercedes team and Vettel’s Ferrari in the 2017 and 2018 world championships is an instance where a dominant team was challenged by an inferior one. However, Mercedes managed to out-develop Ferrari towards the end of each championship.of each championship.
So where is Verstappen’s sub-optimal car vs the dominant species moment? Where is Verstappen’s 1993 Donnington moment? Red Bull has gifted him the most superior car of the modern age, the RB19 is alien spaceship technology compared to other teams. Regardless of how advanced the car may be, the responsibility of delivering race winning performances at every Grand Prix weekend ultimately falls on the driver. Achieving this level of success requires a unique and focused mindset and skillset that allows for consistent and unwavering performances.
For now, Verstappen can only be compared to his teammate Sergio Perez who is a fine driver in his own right, but next to Verstappen, he is made to look ordinary. The best drivers do that. So is it possible for Verstappen to be ranked alongside the great drivers of all time? Yes, but that doesn’t mean to say he is the greatest. Currently, Verstappen’s performances can be likened to playing a PC rcaing simulator on its easiest difficulty setting.
To be considered among the true greats, Verstappen should consider the suffering of Jesus and transform his weaknesses into strengths, his brokenness into wholeness, and his helplessness into power. Only then can he deliver an inspirational sermon that truly inspires.