Ever since the bitter defeat at the Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has looked quite unstoppable. After winning his fourth race of the season at the Styrian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has increased his Championship lead to 18 points over Lewis Hamilton. And if not for the Pirelli tyre failure at Baku, Max would have won four in a row and five out of the eight races this year and would have had a lead of more than 25 points. And with F1 returning to the Red Bull Ring for the second week in a row, Verstappen will look forward to adding to the victory column yet again.
Excluding the DNF at Baku, which was no fault of his own, Verstappen has been sublime; he has crossed the line either coming first or second in all races. It has reached a point where the first time in 8 years, Lewis Hamilton appears to be running out of answers for his opponent.
Everyone had been waiting for this moment to arrive when some driver not named Lewis Hamilton would start winning championships. In 2017 and 2018, it seemed like Sebastian Vettel would be that someone. But as we all know now, that didn’t happen. And since that didn’t work out as many people had hoped for, it was pretty clear that everyone would look at Verstappen as that someone who would stop the Hamilton-Mercedes era.
Verstappen always had been a driver with race-winning or even Championship winning potential. That was very clear when he became the youngest ever driver to start a World Drivers Championship, the youngest driver to score points, and the youngest driver to win a race in F1. So it’s quite clear that no one ever questioned his talent. His maturity, or lack of it, had stopped people from placing all bets on him. He was prone to making mistakes that would cost him and the team many points, as any other driver of his age would. He was quite aggressive also, which would often get him penalized.
But all of that has changed now as he had gained a lot of experience in the six years, he has been in F1 now, which most would consider a lot of experience for a 23-year-old driver. All of this experience has led to him becoming a more mature race-car driver who is less prone to making mistakes and is capable of making race-winning decisions. And as we see can now, he is enjoying all of the success that he so clearly deserves.
One major reason why Verstappen is enjoying all of the success he is achieving is the fact that the Red Bull Car is the most complete and competitive it has been since its last F1 Championship victory in 2013. Ever since the start of the Turbo-Hybrid era in 2014, Red Bull hasn’t had much success. They have won the second the greatest number of races since the beginning of 2014, 22 races to be exact. But when you compare that number to the number of races Mercedes have won in the same period, 105 to be exact, it doesn’t seem that impressive.
Red Bull in all of those seasons had a car that looked good only in a few circuits and only those circuits that demanded less straight-line speed from them. This is because the Renault powertrain they had for the majority of those years wasn’t anywhere near the Mercedes powertrain in terms of power output or reliability. Red Bull signed a contract with Honda in 2019, which made Honda their engine supplier. This move has been very beneficial for them as it has reduced the number of DNFs for them because of the increased reliability of the Honda engine.
And finally, this year, the Honda engine looks like it can run toe-to-toe with the Mercedes engine on the straights or even beat it quite handily, as we have seen over the past few races. That is something Red Bull had envisioned when they signed a contract with Honda. They had seen the progress Honda had made with their engine when they were the engine supplier to their sister team, Alpha Tauri.
Until the beginning of this season, Red Bull always had something missing from their team that stopped them from competing with Mercedes for the top spot in F1. For a few seasons, it was a worthy driver that could challenge Lewis for the Championship or a reliable engine that could keep up with the rest of the field. But this season, it seems like all of the pieces of the puzzle have come together. They finally have the perfect combination of a Championship contending driver in Verstappen and a powerful and reliable Honda engine capable of helping them win any race.
This season is increasingly looking like Red Bull’s and Verstappen to lose, which might take some pressure off Hamilton and Mercedes. Hopefully, all fans of F1 get to watch and enjoy a season-long battle between both of them that we all so thoroughly deserve.
Did you know?
Max Verstappen is the youngest driver ever to win a race in a Formula One Grand Prix!
Max Verstappen became the youngest ever driver to win a race in F1 on 15th May 2016 when he won the Spanish Grand Prix. He won the race starting from 4th place on the grid. After Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had crashed out in the first lap of the race, Verstappen rose to second place behind his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. He later on, took the race lead as he was placed on a two-stop rather than the three-stop strategy like his teammate Ricciardo. In the final stages of the race, he was able to hold off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to take his first Formula One victory at the age of 18 years and 228 days. The record for the youngest driver to win a race was previously held by Sebastian Vettel, who had won the Italian Grand Prix in 2008 at the age of 21 years and 74 days.