Giancarlo Fisichella has placed the talent of Max Verstappen on the same level as Michael Schumacher, and his “fear” is that he will dominate Formula 1 in the same way as the German great did in years to come.
Schumacher won five consecutive World Championships from 2000 to 2004 in what was an unprecedented era of success for Ferrari, and Verstappen won last year’s title in record-breaking fashion with 15 race victories from 22 races.
While the Red Bull driver still has some way to go to match the records that Schumacher set come the end of his illustrious career, Verstappen is well on his way to ranking himself among the sport’s greats already, with two World titles and 38 race victories to his name after taking to the top step in Miami on Sunday.
Fisichella, who finished his Formula 1 career driving for Ferrari, believes Verstappen’s lengthy contract with a currently dominant Red Bull team sets him up for more success in future, which is a warning sign for what the rest of the field will have to fight against in the coming seasons.
“I raced against Schumacher, when he won everything with Ferrari, and I think there was no one as strong as Michael in race management. He remains number one to this day. But if we talk about driving talent, Max Verstappen is on the same level,” Fisichella said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I fear that Max is destined to dominate for a long time, if the union with Red Bull remains so strong.
“At the beginning he was crashing, he made a few mistakes due to inexperience, whereas now he hardly ever makes mistakes.
“He has acquired an incredible consistency of performance, eliminating weak points. He is strong in the wet, in the dry, on the dry lap in qualifying and in the race. He is complete.
“If we talk about precocity, considering what he has done and is doing at his age, he is even ahead of the greats of the past who preceded him.
“Only Charles Leclerc can be compared to him in this respect. And in any case, a driver like Verstappen is born once every 20 years.”
Another former Ferrari driver in Felipe Massa believes Verstappen is showing currently that he is “the best driver with the fastest car” in Formula 1 at the moment.
But alongside that, the 11-time race winner believes it’s the Red Bull driver’s temperament which helps set him aside from the rest – that he would race around the clock, given the chance.
“He has a lot of say within the team – everyone follows him and is on his side,” Massa added.
“It is even difficult to think that the limitations in the wind tunnel could hurt their performance this year.
“But there is another winning feature of Verstappen – that he is focused only on racing without any other distractions. If he could, he’d be in the simulator or on the track 24 hours a day.”
Verstappen currently leads this season’s World Championship by 14 points from Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez after five races.