‘No need for Max Verstappen to take the Schumacher, Hamilton path to greatness’

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the pre-season photo call. Bahrain February 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the pre-season photo call. Bahrain February 2023

Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert has insisted Max Verstappen does not need to win the title with a different team to be regarded as an all-time great alongside Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.

The reigning double World Champion at the age of 25, Verstappen has won 30 of the last 51 races stretching back to the start of his maiden Championship-winning season in 2021.

With all of his success achieved at Red Bull, the team he joined as an 18-year-old in 2016, it has been claimed that Verstappen must win elsewhere in order to cement his status as an F1 legend alongside seven-time World Champions Schumacher and Hamilton.

Schumacher scooped two titles with Benetton in 1994/95 before winning five in a row at the turn of the century with Ferrari, whereas Hamilton claimed his first World Championship with McLaren in 2008.

He went on to win six titles in seven years with Mercedes from the beginning of F1’s hybrid era, becoming the first driver to pass 100 grand prix victories before being dethroned by Verstappen in controversial circumstances at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Herbert – who won two races as Schumacher’s team-mate at Benetton in 1995 – has rejected the notion that Verstappen must switch allegiances to be remembered as a great of the sport, with a driver’s success in F1 closely linked to the quality of the car at their disposal.

He told OLBG: “Verstappen doesn’t have to move and win with another team to be considered a great. Michael Schumacher did with Benetton and [Ferrari, sic].

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“But whatever car you are in, the elite like Verstappen or Hamilton will be able to perform in any car they are given. If he moved to another team the car has still got to give him the chance of him winning a race and a title.

“We know Lewis Hamilton can be equal to Max Verstappen if they are in the same equipment.

“It is not a fair thing to say that Verstappen can only be considered one of the great [sic] unless he is in another car.”

Herbert’s comments come after Le Mans winner Richard Bradley claimed Verstappen will be tempted “in a couple of years” to recreate the success of Schumacher and bring success back to Ferrari, who remain without a Drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen’s triumph in 2007.

Bradley told On Track GP: “Whilst Max is doing exactly what he needs to do in a very, very good team and car, I think he’s going to want to prove himself because Max, there’s no secret, he’s quite a proud person to say the least. And he’s going to want to show that he is one of the true all-time greats.

“And I can see him wanting to bring Ferrari back to the glory that they had with Schumacher, in the next few years. How this might look, I don’t know. When this might happen, we’re not sure.

“He’s still young and he’s still got a bit of time, but I’d be quite confident that maybe after the next five years, if he’s got to the level of five or so championships, which I think is very real, especially if the rules don’t change until 2026, I think it’s something to keep an eye on.”