Fresh off the back of a stunning victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has said that while he appreciates being compared to F1 great Michael Schumacher, he is his own man.
The 22-year-old was recently likened to Schumacher by F1 managing director Ross Brawn in his formula1.com column.
“He reminds me of Michael Schumacher in many ways,” said Brawn of the Dutchman, before adding: “I remember Max’s early days in Formula 1 where his speed was clear — he has now matured into an exceptional racing driver.”
Speaking to CNN’s Amanda Davies, Verstappen said: “It was of course very nice but I don’t like to compare myself to anyone because I’m myself and I’m a different driver.
“Of course, you can always get some similar attitudes or whatever, or you can get compared sometimes but, from my side, I never do that. I just want to be myself.”
Aged 17 and 166 days, Verstappen became the youngest driver in F1 history when he competed in the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. Over the years he has, he said, matured as a driver.
“[I’m] more relaxed, more consistent and know how to build up a weekend and stuff like that,” he added.
“I just feel very comfortable … I’m a very relaxed person anyway so, for me, it was never really super high pressure, but I am more relaxed in a way that I know what’s coming.
“I have experienced a lot already so going to a weekend, I mean, I’m excited to be racing, but I don’t get excited a lot by other stuff surrounding it because you’ve experienced so many different emotions throughout the whole weekend and the year.”
The Dutch driver’s victory at Silverstone was the ninth of his career, but crossing the finishing line still excites him.
“Winning is a good one,” he said. “A good qualifying lap might excite me. Just being around the team and working with the mechanics, and also when they pull off a really good pitstop, it’s a great feeling as well.”
Title challenge on?
Verstappen finished ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas in sweltering conditions last Sunday.
Heading into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen is second in the standings for the drivers’ championship — 30 points behind world champion Hamilton.
But such has been the dominance of Mercedes so far during this 13-race season — the team leads second-place Red Bull in the constructor standings by 67 points — the Red Bull driver did not expect to be mounting a title challenge in the remaining eight races.
“So far we’ve had one race where we were, maybe, the fastest car, but all the other ones we weren’t, so we just have to stay realistic at the moment,” said Verstappen, speaking from Barcelona.
“From my side, I’m not thinking about a possible championship at the moment. I just want to try and do the best I can every single weekend.”
Fighting for equality
The 2020 F1 season began in July at the Austrian Grand Prix, four months later than planned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the restart drivers have joined F1’s “We Race As One” initiative to fight racism and promote equality and inclusion.
But Verstappen is one of several drivers to choose not to kneel before races in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Posting on Twitter before the first race, he said: “I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. But I believe everyone has the right to express themself (sic) at a time and in a way that suits them. I will not take the knee today but respect and support the personal choices every driver makes.”
Hamilton, the sport’s first and only Black world champion in its 70-year history, has been critical of the sport, saying there has been a lack of leadership in the fight against racism.
Five races into the season, Verstappen said that while the campaign is going well, more needed to be done.
“It’s gone well in terms of how we are expressing it but, of course, at the end of the day it’s about actions as well. We just keep showing our support, because I think everybody is in support, which is very important, and time will tell of course what’s going to happen,” he said.
Asked about whether he and the other drivers have spoken to Hamilton regarding the campaign, Verstappen said: “Of course we talk about it. We have our driver briefings but then also we stay on, of course, because we are all members of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association).
“Everybody’s very open and everybody is very supportive and everybody wants exactly the same thing. I think Lewis appreciates that, and it’s not only Lewis who has to appreciate that, it’s the whole world. That’s what we are doing, we are just trying to show our support.”