Yep, you read that right. I’m putting my money on Max Verstappen to take the biggest prize in motorsport this year. I must point out that this is purely an opinion. I could be right on the money, or I have invested way too much into the hype surrounding Red Bull with the new aerodynamic rules. After all, Mercedes seem as strong as ever, and Ferrari look very fast this year.
Regardless, I have made a list of all the key reasons why I think Max Verstappen will be able to come out of the season as the youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion, as opposed to his team mate or one of the other 18 drivers from other teams.
1. 2010 all over again?
Yep, this could be just like seven years ago, where Sebastian Vettel, then a young, 22-year-old, won his first of four titles, after Red Bull chose to let him race, and not help his team mate Mark Webber, who was in a much better position to win the World Championship heading into the final few races.
How do we know that Red Bull would not do the same this season if Ricciardo and Verstappen are in the same sort of situation as Webber and Vettel were? All the key players at Red Bull from the 2010 season are still there, with Christian Horner leading the team, but more importantly, Helmut Marko still as powerful as ever within the team, and a very big fan of Verstappen’s.
With all this being said though, there are reasons why this wouldn’t happen. Unlike Webber, Ricciardo is also a Red Bull Junior Team graduate, and is in the prime of his career, unlike Webber, who was 34 in 2010. The similarities between MAx Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel are clear to see, with both being at essentially the same points in their F1 careers for this comparison. The golden boy who had just finished a breakout season, after promotion to Red Bull at the expense of another driver there already. To add to this, we’ve already seen Ricciardo be put onto different strategies than Verstappen in races such as the Spanish Grand Prix (Ricciardo was pitted an extra time) which didn’t work out as planned, resulting in a more favourable outcome for the young Dutchman. Whilst this is most likely no more than an unintended consequence of the strategy, who knows what is going on inside the minds of the top brass at Red Bull.
As we’ve seen already with the launches that have already taken place, the aerodynamics on the car have changed massively. From the new front wing, to the comeback of the shark fin, the reprofiled rear wing and everything else, it gives the aerodynamic geniuses a chance to shine brighter than they ever have before. Hell, their previous upgrades in years past have completely changed the course of whole championships before. Look at 2012, when they got new parts in for the latter third of the season, they ripped the rest of the field to shreds and came away with both Championships.
It’ll be interesting to see what they can do, especially with unique modifications to the car, such as the pingu nose they will use this season.
3. Red Bull’s testing record.
Red Bull have never really dominated right from the get-go in testing, with the team admitting to sandbagging during their time of dominance in 2013. Look at 2014, where the car could barely do any laps whatsoever, and had been written off as uncompetitve by their critics before the grid had even got to the first race of the season. After all, they’ve already had problems this season in testing, but bounced back from them to have a good first test.
More importantly, in 2014, Red Bull went from a team which could barely last a day without having their running cut short through issues with the car, to one which put a car onto the podium in the first race. Okay, Ricciardo did lose his second place afterwards, but the team rebounded from it to finish a lonely second in the Championship, and Ricciardo was third in the Drivers’ Championship too.
Why is their performance (or lack thereof) in testing important? I feel that it is because Red Bull have not finished on top of the timesheets on any test day since 2015. they’ve come close, especially on day four where Verstappen finished second, but haven’t got to the top recently. They seem to be holding something back every year, but with that being said, Mercedes or Ferrari could be too.
Not bad for a team which could barely do any testing. Who knows what they will do this season.
4. The Rise of Max Verstappen.
In my opinion, this here will be the biggest reason of any as to why he can win the title.
We all know how much of a talent Max is, and if anything, 2016 proved to us that he is a
rising star of Formula One. His win at the Spanish Grand Prix after jumping into the Red Bull mid-season and winning his very first race for the team. It’s not everyday that someone wins a Grand Prix on their very first race with them, and there is only one person who has won any race at 18 years old. As well as this, who can forget his race at Brazil, making a comeback from 16th to 3rd in less than 20 laps, no less on a track which is soaking wet, and in a race which had already been red-flagged for an hour.
Admittedly, Verstappen has areas in which he will need to improve on his racing, especially his tendency to make mistakes which often lead to crashes. As well as this, he needs to learn how to handle the press a bit better, given his comments after races such as the Belgian Grand Prix. With that being said, however, Max Verstappen is still a teenager until September. We all make mistakes in our late teenage years, I definitely have done and I’m sure you have/will too. Because of this, one can only assume that he will become more and more skilled in his racecraft as the season progresses.
Anyway, there are my reasons as to why I feel Max Verstappen will be the 2017 Formula 1 World Champion. Whilst I could be incredibly inaccurate, I feel the Belgian-born Dutchman has what it takes to win Formula 1’s ultimate prize.
Who do you think will be the World Champion this season?
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