Richard Bradley, a former Le Mans 24 Hours race winner, has claimed that Max Verstappen cannot be considered an all-time F1 great as he hasn’t recorded Grand Prix victories in cars that were further down the development pecking order.
The Dutch driver, who made his F1 debut at the age of just 17, spent just over a season driving for Toro Rosso, before stepping up to Red Bull just four races into the 2016 season to replace Russian driver Daniil Kvyat.
Verstappen was unable to produce any race wins during his time in the midfield with Toro Rosso, but the Dutchman marked his Red Bull debut in style, clinching his first F1 victory at the infamous 2016 Spanish Grand Prix after capitalising on an opening-lap crash between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to snatch the lead.
Now 25 years of age and with two World Championships to his name, Verstappen hasn’t looked back. The Dutch driver has won at least one race every season after opening his account in Barcelona back in 2016, and sits fifth in the all-time Grand Prix winners list behind only Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost.
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For Bradley however, this isn’t enough to consider Verstappen one of the F1 greats. “For me, Max hasn’t proven himself properly in a car which doesn’t have the capability to win yet,” Bradley explained on the On Track GP podcast. “I’m not talking one which had a possibility to win, I’m talking one which really didn’t have a chance to win.”
The 31-year-old went on to name the five drivers he believed to have met this criteria, adding: “But whereas you look at the real greats, Senna, with that 1984 [season] driving the Toleman but then winning in an uncompetitive Lotus when his teammates weren’t on the podiums, then he went into a good car. But even when the McLaren wasn’t good in ’93, he still won races in it.”
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“You look at Schumacher. He won the World Championship in that Benetton when his teammates were absolutely nowhere, took Ferrari and was winning races in 1996 when, again, they were nowhere. You look at (Mika) Hakkinen, he was winning races before McLaren were in a position to win the championship. Prost has won the most races not starting in the top four of anybody in history.”
While there was no mention of Hamilton, who started his F1 career in a race-winning McLaren, Bradley did cite a different modern driver. “Going back to the [Sebastian] Vettel factor, Vettel won a race in that Toro Rosso, and was consistently in the top six,” he said.
With Red Bull and Verstappen destroying their competition this season in the remarkably fast RB19, it will likely be a while until we see the Dutchman in machinery that isn’t capable of regular Grand Prix victories.
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