Why Formula 1 needs more Verstappens


Max Verstappen was on the receiving end of criticism after his Monaco Grand Prix crash, but Jonathan Noble says the Dutchman is exactly what Formula 1 needs right now

Even in Formula 1 there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

For while the record books may be able tell us plenty about who won races and championships, they miss out on two things that perhaps matter more: passion and excitement.

No amount of scanning through statistical archives can tell you who are the drivers that stirred the fans, lifted that heart rate just a little bit when they locked horns with their rivals, and made sure that you had to keep an eye on them whenever they were doing something out on track.

Jean Alesi's brilliant repass of Ayrton Senna at Phoenix in 1990 did as much to excite us as his single F1 victory. Dijon 1979 is still carved in our memory banks as much as any of Gilles Villeneuve's six F1 wins.

Now too, when you reflect on the early races this year, it's why Max Verstappen's tally of just six points simply cannot convey what an impact he has made, and what supreme potential he has shown.

There has been little to choose between Verstappen and Carlos Sainz this year. Indeed, in qualifying terms it's 4-2 in the Spaniard's favour and Sainz has scored three more points. Both men have bright futures.

But the results tell us only half the story, for it's some of Verstappen's magical moments in the car that have stood him out for special attention.

Those brilliant overtaking moves in the Chinese Grand Prix, the sensational speed in practice on his first visit to Monte Carlo, and the charge through the field and ultimately spectacular crash on Sunday that turned the Monaco GP on its head.

It's only when you observe him out on track that you get to witness the supreme car control, and his willingness to find the limit by going over it sometimes. It's exactly what he did in Brazil last year when he admitted to taking things a bit further that he had before in practice and deliver some spins and spectacular sideways moments.

Verstappen's crash with Romain Grosjean may have prompted a strong outburst from Felipe Massa after the race, with the Brazilian suggesting that F1 could have been left asking big questions if that Ste. Devote incident had been more serious.

Yes, crashing into rivals is not ideal, but when you look back at when the super stars have come into F1, there is some often some early over-exuberance as they come to grips with life at the pinnacle of the sport.

Vettel famously cost Mark Webber a potential victory at Fuji in 2007 when he ran into the back of him during a safety car period.

It also prompted a pretty strong outburst from the Australian that has echoes of what Massa said last weekend: "It's kids isn't it….kids with not enough experience. You do a good job and then they f**k it all up."

Super stars have that other quality of arriving in F1 and quickly ruffling the feathers of their rivals.

Who can forget Ayrton Senna wanting to have words with Michael Schumacher on the grid at the 1992 French Grand Prix after the German had put the Brazilian out of the race when trying to barge his way through on the opening lap?

Verstappen is by no means the finished article yet, and there are some big lessons to be learned. For example, he was tactically brilliant in opting to shadow Vettel as he scythed through backmarkers in Monaco, but the mistake was in telling his team over the radio exactly what he was up to.

That is what alerted the boys on the pit wall at Lotus as to what the Toro Rosso driver was up to, which is why Grosjean so aggressively closed the door on him once Vettel had gone through.

Lessons will be learned though, and Verstappen will return at the next race just as hungry and ready to excite.

When Toro Rosso put its faith in Verstappen last year when he was just 16, it prompted outcry – and ultimately a change in the F1 regulations.

But if his graduation to the top had been blocked, we would simply have been robbed of something exciting.

Chatting to Pat Symonds in Monaco last weekend, he was pretty open that F1 should be embracing the excitement and potential of the younger drivers rather than try to move grand prix racing towards a more exclusive older generation club.

"There are those who think that the cars should be harder to drive and more aggressive looking," he said. "Why? Personally, I don't find it offensive that a 17-year-old can drive an F1 car.

"In fact, I find it rather pleasing because one of our many, many problems in F1 is that we are not appealing to a younger generation. I think to have 17, 18 or 19-year-olds driving, it will appeal to them a lot more."

A new minimum age for F1 superlicences from 2016 means that Verstappen's place in history is assured: for he will be the youngest driver in history.

But as I said at the beginning, it's not the record books and statistics that maketh F1 heroes. They are created by how they go about their job behind the wheel.

In Verstappen, the sport has exactly the kind of driver it so needs.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Monaco GP
Track Monte Carlo
Drivers Max Verstappen
Teams Toro Rosso
Article type Analysis
Tags noble