Mark Webber has said Max Verstappen knows he beat Lewis Hamilton at the top of his game in this year’s World Championship.
The Australian added that the Red Bull driver has stamped his authority on the grid by not pandering to others and racing them on their own reputation, and goes about his business in his own way.
Given how tight the battle was between him and Lewis Hamilton all year, former Red Bull man Webber thinks he won the title while fighting Hamilton at his peak – which shows that he was not “overwhelmed” by the challenges that faced him in 2021.
“He was watching Formula 1 for a long time, he saw Lewis dominating the sport and was like ‘I want a piece of that’,” Webber said on Channel 4.
“He’s not overwhelmed by individuals, he doesn’t play people on their reputations, he doesn’t drive on their reputations.
“He just sees it as ‘this is my turf, I’m a racing driver and I’m going to make my presence felt’, which he does extraordinarily well.
“So I think for him to know he went against Lewis, there was no real attrition – yes he had the puncture in Baku, the shunt in Silverstone which was Lewis’ fault, Max was a bit out of order in Saudi I felt.
“So they’ve had their trials and tribulations but ultimately he knows he’s beaten a hungry Hamilton, a fit Hamilton.”
Verstappen became only the fourth driver to win the World Championship under the age of 25 when he won in Abu Dhabi, but he already has 20 wins – just one behind the career total of Kimi Raikkonen – and 60 podiums to his name after he arrived in the sport as its youngest ever driver.
Webber added that the Dutchman’s “biblical” confidence in himself helped him adjust to Formula 1 quickly, and the “risk” Red Bull took to give him the step up so early in his career paid off.
Not only has his driving caught attention, the Australian thinks he should be embraced for his worth to the sport as a whole, citing the scenes at Zandvoort in September for just how popular he is.
“The maturity he’s showed for his age when he came into the sport, he has biblical levels of confidence and feel, at the highest level. These cars are not easy to get on top of early,” said Webber.
“Through karting and F3, Red Bull took the risk, and he is right up there in terms of what Red Bull stands for to compete and race hard.
“Verstappen has captivated a nation. Look at the Dutch Grand Prix this year. That was phenomenal for the sport, a new benchmark for that.
“These [drivers] come along once every 10 years. Verstappen is absolutely phenomenal, and the sport should be embracing him.”
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