Can Verstappen harness his Super Power?
Formula One | Verstappen
Lewis or Max? The question is buzzing all over and the battle between these beasts has set the Formula One track on fire. The Monza incident, the tweets & the interviews that followed have taken the rivalry to the next level. There is a high possibility that the title race could go on till the final lap in Abu Dhabi. With 7 races to go and just 2 points behind Hamilton, Verstappen is on course to dethrone the seven-time champion and all he needs is that one quality that makes the Brit special!
Max Verstappen is not a ‘One for the Future' driver anymore. He just turned 24 at the end of September, but already has 7 seasons of Formula One experience under his belt. The youngest ever Grand Prix winner is running parallel to the mighty Hamilton and proving to everyone that he could be the next serial champion.
When you add him to the combination of Red Bull RB16B car, Honda’s power unit (at least for this season) and the superfast pit crew of Red Bull, it becomes deadly! There is no surprise then that the majority of the racing world is choosing Verstappen over Hamilton for the title. Who knows, he could beat all of Hamilton’s records someday! But there are some concerns. Some real concerns. Let’s look at those in the past few races.
Despite having a superior car and technology, the one thing that set Verstappen apart is the aggression in his driving. He never hesitates to make a tough move even when the stakes are higher. We’ve all seen that in Silverstone. It was just the first lap, but he wouldn't let Lewis pass him. His failed move in Sochi during the 10th lap to overtake Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel is one example among many to highlight Verstappen’s aggressive driving.
The irony of life is that sometimes our biggest strength is also our biggest weakness. Just take the superheroes, be it Thor or Iron Man or Queen Elsa, the one thing they suffered the most was to harness their power, channelizing their strength and ego. That’s a huge struggle in real life too! That maturity in handling their strength is what makes someone a champion. Like Lewis Hamilton.
In the Russian GP, the rain started pouring with just 6 laps to go when Hamilton was battling with Lando Norris for the lead. The track became slippery and the drivers were finding it difficult to race with slick tyres. When everyone was pitting to change tyres, leader Norris was thinking about the finish line.
Hamilton, who was in touching distance with Norris for a while, entered the pit in the 49th lap. When McLaren's crew asked Norris to pit, the 21-year-old refused and went on with the hard tyres. He had no grip and aquaplaned at turn 5 of the 51st lap. This allowed the defending World Champion to lead the race and he went on to win it eventually.
When we debate about Norris’ decision not to pit, we should not forget his history. He was a team player and he proved that just weeks before in the Italian GP. When both the McLaren cars were in the first two positions, Norris got a message, not to overtake Daniel Ricciardo. Norris who was faster among the two respected the decision.
The young driver who has respected almost every decision of the team in his career took such a decision because he was seeing victory. His first one. He might have thought that taking a pit stop could put him second behind Hamilton. So, he took an ‘All or Nothing’ decision. We can’t blame him for this. It’s a 21-year old’s hunger for victory. But what Hamilton did was exemplary! That’s where maturity and control come into place. That’s what makes the difference.
Let’s come back to Verstappen. If Max was in Lando’s position, he would’ve done the same thing. The hunger for victory alone won’t drive Verstappen to take such a decision, his aggression too!
There is nothing wrong with showing aggression on track with bold moves. That aggression is good until that’s flowing through your legs and brakes. When that aggression starts flowing in the head and comes out through your decisions, that won’t do you any good. Verstappen has and will continue to have a huge problem with this.
During the Italian GP incident between Max and Lewis, it was seen that the Dutchman was furious with his slow pitstop which took almost 11 seconds. He was shouting at his engineers when they gave him info about Norris in the next lap. After a few minutes, that clash with Hamilton happened. Verstappen’s disappointment that day didn’t start with that pit. It should’ve started with him.
Verstappen who started the race in pole position lost his lead to Ricciardo within few seconds, after an unusual start. He couldn’t use the full potential of the tyres as Lewis Hamilton was on hard tyres, and Verstappen had to save them for a while. The frustration should have grown inside Max on every lap. It was aggression that led him to that position.
Whenever Max is on pole followed by Hamilton, that Red Bull car would always turn a bit towards the left to check Hamilton. It wasn’t like that in Monza because Hamilton was not behind him. The worst thing your aggression could make is underestimating your opponent. That coupled with a bad start made Verstappen lose his lead in a matter of seconds and turned on the frustration switch.
This is where Verstappen and Red Bull should be concerned. Like Norris, Verstappen has started to see his first-ever title and that could lead to consequences. In addition to Hamilton, he’ll be facing a tough challenge with Valtteri Bottas who looks more energetic after his team switching announcement. Even if Verstappen wins the title this season, they have to work on this going into the next season. With Honda parting, the implementation of new regulations, and the pit crew that’s losing its Midas touch, the consistency of Lando Norris, the arrival of George Russel to Mercedes. Verstappen will be facing more challenges than this season and all he needs to do is harnessing his superpower, aggression!