Le Mans winner Richard Bradley feels there is just one element to Max Verstappen’s career missing in proving his all-time great status – which is being able to take inferior machinery seemingly beyond its capabilities.
Talk about Verstappen’s status in the pantheon of the all-time greats has already begun, having taken his 40th career race victory in Barcelona at the weekend and with two World Championships to his name.
He is rocketing up the all-time rankings on all the statistical charts, not that the man himself is particularly interested in records, and on current form the sky is seemingly the limit for the Red Bull driver as he flies through the season with a 53-point lead in search of a third straight title.
Sportscar racer Bradley, who won the legendary 24-hour race in France in 2015 in the LMP2 category, pointed to examples of other Formula 1 greats in years gone by when they were not in dominant cars and still showed their greatness, using Verstappen’s debut season with Toro Rosso alongside Carlos Sainz as a moment where he did not perhaps stand out in the way he is now.
He was quick to add the Red Bull driver’s current status is right up there with the best in the sport, however.
“I don’t think so,” Bradley said on the On Track GP podcast, produced in collaboration between PlanetF1.com and DR Sports, when asked if Verstappen can already be considered an all-time F1 great aged just 25.
“The reason why is since he’s gone into Red Bull, he’s always had a car that’s been capable of fighting.
“And all of the all-time greats, at some point, they took something which wasn’t the best equipment, and they made it work.
“You know, we look at Lewis and 2009 with that McLaren. Okay, he had the dominant Mercedes years [since]. We look at Schumacher when he won his first championships, Senna when he won that famous Donnington Grand Prix in 1993.
“They all have a time when they’re not in competitive equipment, but they make it work. We haven’t seen that from Max.
“When he was at Toro Rosso, which is now AlphaTauri, he was very level with Carlos [Sainz], so I’m still waiting to see that that last bit to prove his greatness – but the level he’s on now, it’s Schumacher-esque, it’s absolutely dominant.”
Bradley explained his reasoning further by comparing Verstappen’s seemingly serene progress in recent seasons to that of Fernando Alonso, who is held in equally high regard for his driving talent, but “he’s always just gone to the wrong place at the wrong time” in his career.
Despite mostly driving below-par machinery since he won his titles in 2005 and 2006, the dominance he has shown over his team-mates and the performance he has extracted from his cars has continued to astound people – and Bradley has backed Verstappen to do the same if and when that occurs in the future.
“Fernando has consistently when he’s been in bad cars, he’s made them work, and he’s managed to get results,” Bradley added.
“That’s why we look at Fernando in that light, even though he’s only got two championships, even though he’s got less wins than Max, we look at him like that, because he’s proved it in inferior equipment.
“I’m going to wait to see that happen for Max, and it will happen at some point because it’s the ebbs and flows of Formula 1 regulation changes.
“I do think that he’ll be able to rise to the challenge and be up to it, 100%, but you just want proof of it.”
You can watch all of Richard Bradley’s thoughts on the Spanish Grand Prix weekend and the wider world of Formula 1 on the debut episode of the On Track GP podcast below.