Max Verstappen, Formula 1’s youngest star, divided opinion at the weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Were his actions the making of a champion or overstepping the mark?
On Monday, I ran a twitter poll asking for your verdict on Max Verstappen’s Australian performance. The question was simple – describe his performance in one of these phrases:
The poll proved to be pretty divisive with a 51% negative- arrogant and too aggressive-reaction and 49% positive- determined and inspiring- reaction. ‘Determined’ was the most popular choice overall. Take a look at the argument for each description below:
Arrogance is in the DNA of all racing drivers. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Every driver needs an element of strong self-belief and of steely self-importance but, to some, Max Verstappen overstepped the mark during the Australian Grand Prix. Verstappen’s race was compromised by the team allowing Carlos Sainz to pit before him. This resulted in Verstappen being caught up behind Sainz later in the race, the latter of whom was trying to pass the Renault driver Jolyon Palmer. Verstappen pleaded with his team to make Carlos move aside for himself and, although they eventually answered his calls, telling Carlos to ‘push’ or allow Max through, Max lost a hefty amount of time behind the Spaniard.
In the closing laps of the race, on Lap 53, Max broke the golden rule and collided with his team-mate. It was clumsy and unnecessary. We haven’t seen too many mistakes resulting in collisions in Max’s time in Formula One so far, although his spectacular Monaco crash with Romain Grosjean springs to mind. Sometimes his moves are a little too aggressive and a little too opportunistic. Having watched the incident from Australia again, however, I would argue that the contact was not entirely Max’s fault. Sainz locked up going into the penultimate corner and left Max nowhere to go except for in to the back of him.
Max’s radio outbursts show that he is clearly determined. As the season progresses, the effect of the determination factor on Max and Carlos’ relationship will be captivating to watch. Max was ‘on the limit’ at the weekend according to Carlos Sainz but added that the pair still have a ‘healthy rivalry’ which drives the team forwards. Again, it will be interesting to see if the rivalry becomes a stumbling block for Toro Rosso later in the season. And his radio outbursts weren’t without reason- his team had messed up his pit-stop- his fresh tyres were not ready for him when he arrived outside his garage. He was 1.5 seconds faster than Carlos Sainz at one point during the race. Perhaps Max’s claim that “Normally I should be miles ahead” isn’t too far from the truth.
In the midst of all this discussion, we forget that Max is only 18 years old. Triple World Champion Lewis Hamilton couldn’t find a way past him during the race. He had the audacity to attempt to make a decision for the team which, arguably, was Max being sensible and trying to gain as many points for the team as possible. His anger was understandable as the team wouldn’t listen to him. On top of all of this, when Sainz eventually passed Palmer, after 6 laps, Verstappen followed him straight through within two corners. It was an incredible show of car placement and one of the many reasons why Verstappen is viewed as a star of the future.
Max is a fascinating character. He’s everything that a future world champion should be- determined with a slight arrogance and aggressive yet inspiring at the same time. Having said that, we did see some instances where his arrogance slipped into immaturity this weekend, relying on his team to help him get past his team-mate rather than his own undoubted skills behind the wheel. In the rest of the 2016 season, Max needs to prove himself to be capable of finding a good balance between the arrogance that is a necessity of a world champion and self-belief that he is capable of pulling off these manoeuvres under his own steam.
What did you think of Max Verstappen’s Australian Grand Prix? Let me know in the comments below!