Le Mans winner Richard Bradley has said that, while no fault of his own, Max Verstappen has yet to prove he is capable of winning in uncompetitive cars like Formula 1 greats of years gone by.
The Red Bull driver has been the dominant force in Formula 1 all season long, winning 10 of the 12 races so far in 2023 after a record-breaking 15 victories on his way to a second World Championship last year.
After his rapid ascent to a Red Bull seat in only his second season as a Formula 1 driver, while still only a teenager, Bradley feels the one gap in his CV is seeing him win in a car that is nowhere near up to the challenge.
Richard Bradley: Max Verstappen yet to win in uncompetitive machinery like other F1 greats
Verstappen entered the sport as its youngest ever driver back in the 2015 season, paired up alongside Carlos Sainz at Toro Rosso and, despite a couple of headline drives to fourth place in Hungary and Austin respectively, he couldn’t quite make his way onto the podium in an impressive debut year.
The Dutchman was soon placed alongside Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull early in 2016 and won his first race with the senior team in Barcelona, but given the previous examples of other multiple World Champions who have achieved the seemingly impossible in uncompetitive cars, 2015 Le Mans LMP2 winner Bradley thinks that is one box left to tick for the dominant Red Bull driver.
“For me, Max hasn’t proven himself properly in a car which doesn’t have the capability to win yet,” Bradley told the latest episode of the On Track GP Podcast.
“I’m not talking one which had a possibility to win, I’m talking one which really didn’t have a chance to win.
“The only time he was in a car which definitely didn’t have the chance to win, which was the Toro Rosso. He was teammates with [Carlos] Sainz, and they were very, very evenly matched throughout the whole period.
“And then he went into Red Bull and he won his first race so the car was clearly in a position to compete.
“But whereas you look at the real greats, Senna, with that 1984 [season] driving the Toleman but then winning in an uncompetitive Lotus when his teammates weren’t on the podiums, then he went into a good car. But even when the McLaren wasn’t good in ’93, he still won races in it.
“You look at Schumacher, he won the World Championship in that Benetton when his teammates were absolutely nowhere, took Ferrari and was winning races in 1996 when, again, they were nowhere.
“You look at Hakkinen, he was winning races before McLaren were in a position to win the championship. Prost has won the most races not starting in the top four of anybody in history.
“For me, [that’s] what makes the whole package, and I don’t think Max has actually done that yet – but that’s no fault of Max’s at all.
“Going back to the [Sebastian] Vettel factor, Vettel won a race in that Toro Rosso, and was consistently in the top six.
“But Max, the problem is Red Bull have had such a good car over the years, Max has never been tested to that yet. So that’s not a discredit to Max, it’s just merely saying that we haven’t seen that happen yet.”
On Track GP is a YouTube channel launched in collaboration between PlanetF1.com and DR Sports, and you can watch the full latest episode of the On Track GP Podcast below, debriefing the Belgian Grand Prix.