Leading F1 performance coach delivers haunting Max Verstappen warning

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen celebrates yet another P1. Australia April 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates yet another P1. Australia April 2023

Atze Kerkhof, a driver performance consultant with Alfa Romeo, believes Max Verstappen is unbeatable, given his natural talent and hours of training.

That’s according to an extract from Mark Hughes’ ‘UNSTOPPABLE: The Ultimate Biography of Max Verstappen’, which is out September 7.

Cruising to 10 wins this season, eight on the trot from Miami to Belgium, Verstappen has been an almost immovable force with only his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez taking race wins off him, and even then he was P2 in those two grands prix.

‘You cannot beat Max Verstappen’

The Dutchman in the RB19, a car that’s in a league of its own, is on course for several records from most wins in a season, most points scored, the fastest championship title, and the longest podium streak.

First up, though, is matching Sebastian Vettel’s record for the most consecutive wins, nine, which Verstappen will chase at his home race in Zandvoort this Sunday.

However, it’s the manner of his success that has his rivals most worried with the 25-year-old claiming win after win by a comfortable margin.

It has Lewis Hamilton fearing his 2021 title rival will dominate the sport for the next “three years”, and Kerkhof wouldn’t be surprised.

“Max is as good as he is right now because of a brilliant natural gift and millions of hours of training. He’s only got better,” he said in Hughes’ book, an extract of which was published by The Times.

“The rough edges have gone and now he’s like a machine. You cannot beat him.”

Hughes’ writes that “with Verstappen, it can look like faster reactions, but it’s not. He’s just feeling what the car is doing earlier through his neural pathways, which go direct to the brain, enabling him to respond earlier with the necessary inputs.”

And according to former F1 driver and 2009 World Champion Jenson Button, Verstappen can also drive cars with horrendous balance that no-one else on the grid can manage.

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“Max is brilliant at getting the best from a car with an aerodynamic balance which the wind tunnel says is the best,” he said. “Most drivers find that balance horrible and adjust the car away from that to give them the confidence they need to commit to corners.

“But he can just drive it like that.”

It has Helmut Marko telling Hughes that while Verstappen, who leads the Drivers’ Championship by 125 points ahead of Perez, has a certain Ayrton Senna quality, he’s “more natural” than the triple World Champion.

“Senna was more structured,” Marko says. “With Max, it’s more natural.

“You watch the early laps on a wet track, he’s three seconds faster than anyone. Or a dusty new track — it takes three or four laps for the others to begin to close the gap.

“You can talk to him on the radio when he is in a 300-kilometer-per-hour corner and it’s like he’s sitting down having a cup of tea.”

‘UNSTOPPABLE: The Ultimate Biography of Max Verstappen’ by Mark Hughes will be available from September 7.

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