After young Max Verstappen’s performance in the damp conditions in China, Damon Hill compares Max Verstappen with his former team colleague Ayrton Senna and points to his masterpiece in the rain at Donington 1993.
Verstappen delivered one of the highlights of the Formula 1 season 2017 in China. The Dutchman entered the race on a wet track in Shanghai from 16th on the and had already moved up to eighth place at the end of the first lap . In the end, he finished third on the podium for Red Bull Racing.
Several pundits including Damon Hill compared those laps to Senna’s legendary opening laps of the European Grand Prix at Donington Park in 1993. Having started 4th on a wet track, Senna blitzed the competition and was leading by the end of the first lap. He then went on to win the race a whole minute ahead of the field. Sky Sports F1 pundit Hill went on to describe Verstappen as “like a hot knife through butter” driving through the field in China.
“This is Senna, that’s what Senna would do,” the 1996 World Champion describes his thoughts at that moment. The 56-year-old now speaks from experience, he was also racing at Donington himself during that race and was one of Senna’s “victims” in lap one.
“Max had to overtake many more cars than Ayrton did in the race [in China]”
“He strikes into gaps, he sees where space is. The Dutchman simply had an “instinct”. Such things do not happen often,” explains Hill.
Fellow Sky Sports presenter and ex F1 racer Paul di Resta agrees.
“It’s clear that he is quite relaxed,” says di Resta, observing “Even if the car is horizontal, he doesn’t panic.”
Hill agrees and describes the control the 19-year-old has over his car as “brilliant” and “completely crazy”.
Another point di Resta noticed: “It takes different lines, which is strange. In the kart, this can work, but in racing cars you usually always want to be on the best line. In the case of China however, it’s noticeable that he partly selects completely different lines than his opponents.”
Although it is obvious that Verstappen has a remarkable ability to take places in a most unusual fashion, particularly in the wet; it could be argued that he is riding the crest of a wave of popularity and can do no wrong. It remains to be seen how well noticed and publicised it’ll be in the media when the inevitable mistakes are made. Indeed the races in Spa and Hungary last year suddenly seem a distant memory, but should they be?