When asked who would be faster between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in a straight race in the same car, Christian Horner unsurprisingly backed his own driver. The comparison is a strange one as you cannot really compare a 21-year-old who has six wins under his belt to someone who has nearly as many world championships. But it has fired both the press and social media into a frenzy with everyone discussing the topic. Therefore, I thought I would jump onto this bandwagon and share my thoughts on the topic.
To try and make the comparison a bit fairer I am going to take a look at the beginning of both of their careers with Verstappen being as young as he is.
Let’s not forget that Hamilton wasn’t even driving in Formula One when he was 21 years old, yet Verstappen is already in his fifth season and has six grand prix wins to his name. On top of this, his most recent win in Austria is one of the best drives I have seen for a long time. The way he managed to look after his tyres and pounce at the right moment shows maturity way beyond his age. Whether or not Hamilton would have achieved the same given the opportunity that Verstappen has had with starting his career so early is like looking into a crystal ball. Although, when we take into consideration that Hamilton won his first world championship into just his second season in Formula One, its hard to deny that he would have certainly impressed in the same way Verstappen has.
In just his first season Hamilton won four races with Fernando Alonso, arguably one of the best drivers ever, in the opposing seat. Verstappen on the other hand is currently driving against Pierre Gasly, and if you are to compare Gasly and Alonso you will likely come to a swift conclusion. And to make Hamilton’s early career even more impressive, in just his second season in the sport he won the world championship. What Hamilton achieved during his first two seasons in Formula One was remarkable, and whilst what Verstappen has achieved so far is impressive, it certainly isn’t at the same level as Hamilton. Although, Verstappen still has a few seasons left in order to achieve what Hamilton did at the same age.
In terms of driving style, I can see why Christian Horner has made such a claim, Verstappen is certainly very talented and has brought a breath of fresh air to the sport with his lightning pace and exciting determination to win. But is it as effective as Hamilton’s? If you look at Verstappen’s record before this year, he has a tremendous amount of retirements to his name, whilst Lewis rarely doesn’t finish a race. I think I tend to agree with many critics that the crash during practice at Monaco last year for Verstappen was a turning point in his career, especially considering this then teammate Daniel Ricciardo then went on to win the race. Since then Verstappen has had only one retirement and hasn’t placed outside the top five this year. If this is a permanent fix to his driving, then we really could be looking at a future world champion.
Whilst Verstappen hasn’t really been a title contender yet it is clear that he is the pick of the bunch out of the young drivers in Formula One right now and if Red Bull don’t produce a more competitive car in the near future I wouldn’t be surprised to see Max move to either Mercedes of Ferrari. Hamilton on the other hand was put straight into a title contending car with McLaren Mercedes winning both of Hamilton’s first two seasons in the sport. If you were to put Max in a competitive car this early on in his career, I am sure that he would be fighting for world championships as well.
It is almost an impossible comparison between the two as they have both at very different stages of their careers, and have had very different paths into Formula One, I mean Hamilton hadn’t even started his Formula One career at Verstappen’s age. And if you were to ask me right now who I would rather have driving a car if I were in charge of a team, how could you say no to a five-time world champion? To judge both of these drivers against each other has too many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ right now. I have no doubt that world championship titles will come for Max Verstappen, as he clearly has a very bright future ahead of him, and perhaps once both careers have finished, we will be able to properly compare the two.