Max Verstappen is the dominant force in Formula 1 right now with Red Bull on top, while Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team have struggled to compete with their rivals
A top Max Verstappen ally has hailed the Dutchman as “the best thing that has happened to Formula 1 ” – and accused Lewis Hamilton of a lack of focus.
Verstappen has dominated the F1 world over the last two seasons. Last year in particular, he and his Red Bull team completely demolished the competition on the way to his third drivers’ title.
He remains some way off what Hamilton has achieved in the sport. The 39-year-old is a seven-time world champion with a record 103 race wins to his name – though none of them have come in the last two seasons.
Given what he has achieved as a Red Bull driver, those associated with both their teams have loved working with him. So it’s no surprise to see AlphaTauri team manager Graham Watson wax lyrical about Verstappen.
“Max is the best thing that has happened to Formula 1,” he told Dutch magazine Formule1. “When Max went from us to Red Bull, I compared it to Michael Schumacher’s move to Ferrari. He [Schumacher] made Formula 1 immensely popular at the time. Just look at the old images of Hockenheim and Spa: the stands were full with Schumacher flags.
“I think Max single-handedly saved Formula 1. Because he brings the same intensity and generates interest. People come en masse to Austria, Spa, actually everywhere for him. I didn’t even see that back in Schumacher’s time. My wife is 60 years old, but a big fan of Max because of his style, because of the excitement he creates on track.”
Hamilton has undoubtedly created his own army of loyal fans both in the UK and beyond thanks to his extraordinary achievements in the sport. But Watson went on to assert that Verstappen has done more in that regard and questioned the Brit’s commitment to F1.
He added: “Max brings a whole new audience to Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton is very talented, but is involved in so many things that people wonder, ‘Is he a Formula 1 driver or not?’
“He’s associated with so many other things. Lewis Hamilton is a brand, Max Verstappen is a Formula 1 driver. And that won’t change. I’m not saying that what Hamilton is doing is wrong, but he’s not the nerd like Max. When guys like that are not in the car, they’re in the simulator or in a kart. They’re always trying to improve themselves.”
Irrespective of questions over his commitment to F1, Hamilton did sign a new deal last year that will keep him with Mercedes until the end of 2025. He will be almost 41 by that point but, already, there have been plenty of suggestions that this contract may not be his last before his eventual retirement.