Former Formula 1 driver Nick Heidfeld has seen “very few” drivers as special as Max Verstappen, who surprised him with how he learned from mistakes to become the “complete” driver he is today.
Formula 1 is now very much operating in the era of Verstappen, the Dutchman closing in on his third World Championship in as many seasons.
And F1 2023 has been a further record-breaking campaign for Verstappen, who set a new standard with 10 grand prix wins in a row, with an overall tally for the season already of 13.
Nick Heidfeld lauds “special” talent Max Verstappen
Speaking to Sport1, Heidfeld, who made the Formula 1 podium 13 times in his career, spoke of how Verstappen, who had the tendency to become a little reckless in his early F1 years, has taken the lessons from such errors to grow into that complete driving force.
“Very impressive,” said Heidfeld as he gave his opinion on Verstappen. “There was always no question about Verstappen’s talent.
“On the race track, you can see what’s special about him, even compared to other top drivers.
“What surprised me even more positively; that he has learned from his mistakes and has developed extremely. He is a complete Formula 1 driver.”
Verstappen’s team boss at Red Bull, Christian Horner, recently claimed that Verstappen must already now be considered among the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all-time, a viewpoint which Heidfeld shares.
Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are the drivers, which from experience of watching them, Heidfeld places in that elite category with Verstappen.
“Very, very few,” said Heidfeld when asked about which other drivers he has seen with a special talent like Verstappen.
“There was Michael. Back in Formula 3000, I watched the Formula 1 cars in Monaco. And I say today: you could have painted all the cars and helmets black and you would still have recognised Michael. He simply drove differently, had more control, drove closer to the crash barriers.
“I saw something similar years later with Lewis Hamilton. He also had extreme car control, albeit a bit wilder. And at the same time, I noticed Alonso. He might not have driven as close to the crash barriers, but he was incredibly consistent and with a lot of control.
“Not to forget Sebastian Vettel. He struggled a bit in recent years, but in his Red Bull I remember one qualifying session in Istanbul, I saw a lap where I thought: ‘Wow, absolutely amazing’.”
A top-six finish in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint is all that Verstappen needs to seal the Drivers’ Championship and become a three-time World Champion.