Weekend debate: Does Max Verstappen need to calm down?

The Scrutineering Bay is Badger’s way of taking a hot Grand Prix racing topic and getting people from the Sett involved to put their opinions across.

From predicting races, arguing stewards decisions to just deciding who was/is/will be the best, anything is fair game!

Max Verstappen had a painful ‘life lesson’ in Shanghai, taking out the world championship leader Sebastian Vettel and messing up his chance of a win by running wide when trying to pass Lewis Hamilton in a highly risky place on the track.

The F1 world loves Verstappen’s bold moves and virtuoso drives when they come off, and Red Bull have broken the bank to sign him on that basis. But Shanghai illustrated that there is a fine line between hero and zero when you walk that particular tightrope.

It’s an interesting question – does Max need to keep doing what he’s doing, or is it time to reflect and change his style of driving?

Yes – “We’re seeing far too much aggression from him on track”

Fern Lock

You’d think in his fourth season, Max Verstappen’s attitude on track would have matured like a fine wine, but sadly this isn’t the case. We’re seeing more sour incidents than sweet victories. The error of his ways are not only costing Red Bull valuable points but could potentially cost him his career.

Remember in 2016 when the ‘Verstappen Rule’ was briefly introduced to prevent his dangerous last minute, defensive moves? Max is no stranger to controversies on track, but we quickly forget about the mistakes with the outstanding performances that eventually follow.

Take the wet race in Brazil that year, Max gave a masterclass in overtaking – meaning the previous incidents with Kimi Raikkonen in Hungary and Belgium that called for the ‘Verstappen Rule’ were soon forgotten. He was fearless that day leaving us on the edge of our seats with every overtake. That’s the Max we all want to see, showing us the right balance of daring moves and clean passes.

Image: Red Bull Content Pool

But for me, China was the final straw. It’s time for Max to grow up and calm down a little. Red Bull can’t afford to lose out like they did, in a race that could have been a 1-2 for the team.

We’re seeing far too much aggression from him on track and he doesn’t show any remorse. Maybe the penalties received haven’t been strict enough, or he just believes he’s invincible and the rules don’t apply to him? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for less Max VerCRASHen and more performances that scream future world champion.

No – “With every mistake, Verstappen is learning, growing, finding new limits.”

Dan Thompson

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a great season for Max. Eighth in the championship with just 18 points and no podiums but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Compare his results to those of Valtteri Bottas. Two podiums, 40 points and third overall makes the Finn by far the superior driver on paper and yet it’s Bottas who is already having his place at the sharp end of the grid questioned.

Both Bottas and Verstappen have lost races this season after misjudging overtaking moves, the former for being overcautious, the latter for being over-ambitious. Both are mistakes but in the world of Grand Prix racing, which is the greater sin?

Image: Red Bull Content Pool

All F1 drivers perform on the limit, but what sets great drivers apart is that they seek out new limits. They find time and opportunities where others don’t and, yes, sometimes they get it wrong. But for every time they do, there are others that they get it spectacularly right. For every China 2018 there’s a Brazil 2016, for every messy shunt there’s a sublime, physics-bending overtake.

Look back on the early careers of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, even Ayrton Senna and you will see dozens of incidents like the ones we’re looking at here. Those drivers did change over time, but it wasn’t a case of calming down, rather they learned to channel that aggression into something that moved them from the ranks of the very good into the ranks of the exceptional. With every mistake, Verstappen is learning, growing, finding new limits.

Max’s ambition isn’t his greatest weakness, it’s his greatest weapon. When he’s done honing it, there will be nobody that can stop him.

What do you think? Is Max Verstappen too aggressive for modern-day Formula 1, or is he simply still finding his limits as a Grand Prix driver?

Let us know via Facebook and Twitter, and look out for more debate throughout the season! 

While you're here...

Did you know that Badger GP has now been running for nearly a decade, and this is only possible with the support of our fans and readers. You can support Badger GP for as little as £10 per year, or be a Champion and gets lots of perks in return. Find out more here, thank you.