Max Verstappen is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of, if not the most promising driver on the current Formula 1 grid. The 19-year-old Dutchman has already shown his mastery of a racing car, taking a victory at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, at the tender age of 18 years and 228 days old. This has led to many fellow drivers and various media outlets across the last couple of years comparing him to some of the greats of the sport.
Berger makes a strong claim
Many of these claims have been made due to his phenomenal car control and his racing maturity and nerve, for a driver as young as he is. However, this past week, former Ferrari and Mclaren driver, Gerhard Berger made perhaps the boldest claim anyone has made yet. Whenever any driver has a large amount of promise, they get compared to many legends of the Sport, such as Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, as well as many current drivers that will go down as legends, such as Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Berger’s claim, however, is comparing Verstappen to perhaps the greatest Formula 1 Driver to have ever lived, Ayrton Senna.
These were the words Berger had for Verstappen:
“In my time, Ayrton Senna was by far the best driver, and maybe he was the best driver of all time. Now, Max Verstappen has amazed me with his overtaking skills, especially in the first lap. Other drivers regularly damage their front wing, but not Verstappen. He is from the same mould as Senna.”
Is it a justifiable claim?
It’s always considered to be a bold claim whenever links are made from another driver to Senna. However, Berger’s claim carries a lot more legitimacy than most, being as he didn’t only race in the same championship as Senna, and at the same time, but was also the Brazilian’s team mate at Mclaren between 1990 and 1992. Not only were they team mates, Berger and Senna were also close friends. This means that for Berger to make such a claim carries a lot more weight, as during that period of time, there would have been no one else taking as much notice of Senna as a talent at that time than Gerhard himself.
It is easy to see how one can compare Verstappen to Senna, though. Senna was always considered a master in the rain, based on performances in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, 1985 Portugese Grand Prix, as well as the incredible display of the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington Park, where he passed 4 drivers on the opening lap, before going on to take victory.
Verstappen also made quite a name for himself in the wet in 2016, with the memorable performance in the Brazilan Grand Prix. Where a rain affected race, including five safety cars, two red flags, and Verstappen coming back from 14th place to finish 3rd after his final stop, with 16 laps to go. But the overtaking and car control he displayed, at one point coming inches away from going face-on into the barrier, was when the whispers began the the Dutchman may be as good as to be compared to the great Brazilian, Ayrton Senna.