Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson believes the final area Max Verstappen needs to “polish” in his armoury is knowing when to fight on track and when not to, adding he should “take a leaf out of Lewis Hamilton’s book” in how he raced in dominant machinery.
Verstappen was left fuming with Mercedes driver George Russell after the two made contact during Saturday’s sprint event around Baku, having gone side-by-side through the first three corners before Russell eventually made his way through.
The reigning World Champion was able to get back past the Mercedes relatively quickly, but he ran the remainder of the sprint with a hole in his sidepod, costing him significant performance and adding work for his Red Bull mechanics before the race.
Verstappen maintained Russell was firmly in the wrong for the incident, in which the pair made contact at Turn 2, but given the speed of the car which the Dutchman has underneath him in the RB19, ex-Formula 1 driver Davidson believes he did not need to race Russell as hard as he did in the early corners.
Instead, given the innate pace advantage he knows he now has, he encouraged Verstappen to follow the example set by Hamilton in his most dominant cars moving forward, with the Red Bull driver no longer needing to take a position at all costs – such is the advantage he has in the RB19.
That, the former F1 driver and World Endurance champion pointed out, is the “last thing” in Verstappen’s mindset he feels needs improving upon – which in itself is “quite worrying”, given how much success he has already achieved.
“Max now having the car he has, it’s the dominant team, Red Bull, and he spent many a year in a car that wasn’t the dominant car,” Davidson explained on Sky Sports News.
“He was fighting the likes of Mercedes that had that level of performance that he wished he had.
“So back in the day like 2020, when he was really fighting the superior car of the Mercedes, I would say he would go for moves where he would take risks.
“He would send the car down the inside of someone like Lewis Hamilton, because that was his one chance possibly to get in front of the Mercedes and then try and hold them up – the only chance he had really to win the race.
“But he still seems to drive sometimes, and Baku was one of these races, with that same approach.
“That was in the sprint race where we saw these scenes with him and George Russell, and he was saying: ‘Look, if you drive like that, if you send the car down the inside, then expect it in the future from me in return, because that’s how it’s going to be’.
“But I would say that’s the last thing now that Max has to just polish up, because he’s still a young driver, and he’s still getting better – which is quite worrying for the competition, because he’s so good.
“It’s the one thing he now has to fix, I would say, and learn from – take a leaf out of Lewis’ book in many ways.
“When Lewis was in the dominant car, he would give up a position there on track to then get it back later on anyway, because he had the car to do it.
“Lewis would always see the bigger picture, play the long game, and I think that’s the only thing now that Max can just tidy up in going forward because there was no need to fight George quite as hard as he did into that corner early on in the sprint race, because he was going to sail past anyway with that the level of performance he has in that Red Bull.
“So I think he has to understand the car and the advantage he has this year over the competition. His main focus is really Sergio Perez.”