Is Max Verstappen the modern day equivalent of Ayrton Senna?

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen smiling underneath his helmet. Bahrain, February 2023.

Max Verstappen smiling underneath his helmet. Bahrain, February 2023.

Former McLaren coordinator Jo Ramirez believes Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has become the Ayrton Senna of his generation.

And this stance comes from someone who knows Senna well, with Ramirez having worked at McLaren from 1984-2001, meaning he was with the team for Senna’s full stint there between 1988-1993.

It was with McLaren that Senna claimed his trio of Formula 1 World Championships, and this is a feat which Verstappen is now on the hunt to replicate with Red Bull in F1 2023.

The Dutchman has made a perfect start to that quest, dominating the season-opening race in Bahrain as team-mate Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-two.

And asked by AS if Verstappen is the safest bet to become a three-time World Champion in 2023, Ramirez said he believes that is the case.

Furthermore, he believes Verstappen has become the Senna of modern Formula 1, and at the wheel of that Red Bull RB19 is simply “unstoppable”.

Asked if Verstappen is a safe bet to win the 2023 title, Ramirez replied: “The safest. The guy is very good.

“He has taken the role of Ayrton Senna in modern F1 and with that car, that team and Adrian Newey, he is almost unstoppable.” recommends

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Verstappen has now firmly established himself as the de facto number one driver at Red Bull, although team-mate Perez has said before that he would not be in Formula 1 if he was the defined number two to the Dutchman.

And as a fresh season of Formula 1 got underway in Bahrain, while Perez could not get the better of Verstappen, the deficit was less than what it was at many stages in the previous campaign.

Verstappen took pole with a margin of 0.138s over Perez, while come the chequered flag on race day Verstappen was the victor with a buffer of 12 seconds over Perez.

However, Ramirez believes that Perez does not have the “killer instinct” which his more decorated Red Bull team-mate has.

“Checo is very good too, but he lacks the killer instinct that Max has,” Ramirez stated.

One team which has not started the new campaign strongly though is Ramirez’s former employer McLaren.

The team said before Bahrain that they had not hit targets and were relying on early-season development to get the MCL60 on the right path.

And the Bahrain GP was indeed a tough outing for McLaren. Lando Norris narrowly made it into Q2 and Oscar Piastri dropped out in Q1, while both drivers were forced to retire from the race – Piastri with an electronics issue on his MCL60, while an engine pneumatics problem spelled the end for Norris.

Ramirez said it is a “pity” to see the situation which McLaren are in, though explained that even in his time there, the team were “always late” with the new car.

“It’s a pity,” said Ramirez of McLaren. “They are very slow in development.

“Even in my day, when we were working on next year’s new car, we were always late. Ron Dennis wanted to check everything, down to the smallest detail, and often the championship would start and we’d be caught with our trousers down because we weren’t ready.”