Max Verstappen will never deliver upon his future world championship potential unless he addresses the kinds of mistakes that eliminated both Red Bulls in Baku, argues motorsport veteran Stefan Johansson.
Although the team itself stopped short of blaming either driver, a popular verdict from outside the walls of the Red Bull garage was that Verstappen had moved under braking, leaving Daniel Ricciardo with nowhere to go but into the back of him. Writing in his blog, Johansson – whose own F1 career included stints with McLaren and Ferrari – said that such maneuvers were becoming a Verstappen trademark. The difference in this case, he argued, was that the Dutchman didn’t get away with it.
“He’s been getting away with his moves for the past three years,” Johansson said. “But now the tide has turned because every one of them is so marginal, so low-percentage. Eventually, the odds catch up with you and you can’t get away with what you’ve been getting away with forever.
“If you look back at all of the moves Max has made, it’s been extraordinary that he hasn’t been caught out before, and instead it’s been whomever he was dicing with that ended up with a broken wing end-plate or got run off the track or whatever else might have happened. But then things turn around and every move you make goes the wrong way – although he’s not doing anything different, the tiny margins he’s dealing with all the time are now not in his favor anymore. Part of the problem when you’re constantly cutting it that fine is that you’re leaving your own faith in the hands of the guy you’re racing against, and none of the guys at this level will accept to get bullied forever. And, so here we are, all the “genius” moves from the past years now suddenly look clumsy and poorly-executed.
“At some stage I think the penny is going to have to drop for him. You’ll never ever win a championship driving like he does. He’s still young and I’m sure these past races have taught him that you don’t have to win every battle to win the war and he will no doubt win several more races and championships. But he’s got to realize that he cannot keep doing what he’s doing and hope to get away with it every time.”
While Red Bull’s Christian Horner opted to publicly shield either driver from culpability, Johansson said that the team should use the incident as an opportunity to address Verstappen’s aggression.
“He’s pulled the same trick several times before on other drivers, and it’s always been the guy coming from behind who got the short end of the stick,” Johansson said. “ This time, both were out immediately.
“What I would do if [I] was Christian Horner or Helmut Marko… instead of constantly protecting him, I would have him sit and watch every video replay of every incident or accident he’s had where he got away with it and make him see how lucky he’s been in the past. Now circumstances have changed a half-percent in the wrong direction and he’s not just costing someone else a front wing or a lost race, he’s costing himself and the team DNFs and extremely valuable points. Sooner or later you will run out of luck.”
Horner said that the Azerbaijan crash would be discussed internally before this weekend’s race in Barcelona, but insisted that Verstappen and Ricciardo will be allowed to continue to race each other in future.
Read Johansson’s full blog post here.