Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Max Verstappen shrugs off Ayrton Senna comparisons

Teenage tyro could take fourth place at this weekend’s F1 finale at Yas Marina Circuit

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Max Verstappen addressing a press conference aheadof the race at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Max Verstappen may be Formula One’s most prodigious young talent, but he’s not letting the high praise he is attracting go to his head.

The 19-year-old’s exceptional driving skills have evoked comparisons with the former three-time world champion, Ayrton Senna, in his debut campaign for Red Bull Racing.

“It’s nice for sure but it’s also very important to stay neutral about it. That was a great race, but it’s finished now and I’m focusing ahead. The day after I was still very happy with the performance, that’s for sure.””
-Max Verstappen | Red Bull Racing
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His performance at the recent Brazilian Grand Prix was certainly a masterclass of wet-weather overtaking of which the late, great Brazilian would have been proud.

Verstappen stormed from 16th to third in the final stages of the race and sits fifth in the drivers’ championship ahead of this weekend’s Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Red Bull boss Christian Horner later said the drive deserved to be compared to some of Senna and Schumacher’s career-defining races in the wet.

But ahead of this weekend’s season finale at Yas Marina Circuit, he said: “It’s nice for sure but it’s also very important to stay neutral about it. That was a great race, but it’s finished now and I’m focusing ahead. The day after I was still very happy with the performance, that’s for sure.

“It was very difficult and at the end I was also just very happy to finish the race. The last sector was very difficult to drive, so on the last lap I was very happy that was the last lap of the race.”

When he took the chequered flag in Spain in mid-May, Verstappen became the youngest winner in F1 history: he was just 18 years and 227 days old, eclipsing the previous record held by Sebastian Vettel at 21 years and 73 days.

And this weekend, he could overtake Vettel in the standings to take a superb fourth place in only his second year in F1. He is currently just five points behind the eminent German.

When asked if he felt his Brazilian GP display answered those who have questioned his aggressive technique this year, he replied: “I always thought that was fine. Like I said before, I’m always focusing on myself and trying to do the best possible race and result. That’s how it goes, I don’t care about other opinions.”

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Nico Rosberg celebrates after winning the Drivers World Championship by finishing second to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton at Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Virendra Saklani/Gulf News