Max Verstappen is better than Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull Racing? Uh, not so fast

The exuberance at Red Bull Racing Formula 1 headquarters is understandable. After all, Max Verstappen ousted Lewis Hamilton from his four-year reign atop the Drivers’ World Championship. This feat alone should place the 24-year-old Dutch rider in the top 1% of the list of international clutch athletes.

However, Verstappen’s praise should not come at the expense of the contribution of another great driver in Red Bull history. Unfortunately, people there seem to have short memories when it comes to Sebastian Vettel.

Max Verstappen made his way to the top of Formula 1

Dutchman Max Verstappen and German Sebastian Vettel pose in the parc fermé after qualifying for the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 16, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. | Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Max Verstappen was just 18 when he joined Red Bull Racing as part of a driver change at the start of the Formula 1 season and quickly rewarded his team by winning the Spanish Grand Prix. He earned nine more victories over the next four seasons.

Along the way, Verstappen has consistently placed near the top of the points standings, finishing fifth, sixth and fourth in the first three seasons. He followed that up with third consecutive places in 2019 and 20, paving the way for the greatest achievement of his career.

Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have faced each other throughout the 2021 F1 season, attracting new fans to the sport. Verstappen won 10 of 22 races, the last coming on a late overtake by Hamilton in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This broke the tie in the points standings, earning the Red Bull star the Drivers’ World Championship.

It was the first F1 championship for the Red Bull organization since Sebastian Vettel’s fourth consecutive crown in 2013.

Red Bull officials praised Max Verstappen

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Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko is familiar with Formula 1 racing. He drove in the series in the early 1970s, led an F3 team and represented drivers. In 1999 he took over the driver development program from Red Bull and Marko has advised the racing team since 2005.

Taking all of this into account, his opinion carries some weight. And Marko’s opinion is that Max Verstappen is the best driver to ever represent Red Bull, even better than Sebastian Vettel in his prime.

“Yes, without a doubt he is,” he said, according to The Sports Rush.

Marko cited Verstappen’s ability to adapt quickly as one of the factors.

“If it rains somewhere, the others do five or eight laps,” he said. “Then Max comes out and sets the best time in the first lap. “

For what it’s worth, Red Bull boss Christian Horner is just as bullish on Verstappen.

“I have no doubts (Verstappen is) the best we’ve seen on any of our cars, in terms of raw capacity and engagement,” Horner told UK newspaper The Times. “He’s the best driver we’ve seen. Sebastian was also incredibly good, but we gave him a better car.

F1 driver Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull credentials were impressive

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Sebastian Vettel already had a season and a half of Formula 1 experience under his belt when he joined Red Bull Racing in 2009 and immediately faced Jenson Button for the championship of the season before settling for second.

A year later, Vettel began a series of four consecutive World Drivers’ Championships comprising 25 Grand Prix triumphs and 20 more podiums. Red Bull have won the constructors’ championships in the four years that Vettel has won his titles, potentially lending credence to Christian Horner’s claim that the cars were better than those driven by Max Verstappen last season.

However, Vettel’s magnificent body of work must count for something.

In 2010, Vettel entered the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, third in points, behind Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, but passed both to claim victory and the season title. The 2012 battle was also played out in the last race, with Vettel again ahead of Alonso for the title.

In the other two championship seasons, however, Vettel ran away with the championships. His huge advances made the last four races of 2011 and the last three of 2013 meaningless.

Additionally, the competition Vettel faced in his four championship seasons was impressive. Alonso (twice), Button, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen won all five F1 titles ahead of Vettel’s streak, and all remained active as the German star won.

And not that he slangs himself driving Ferrari cars, but Vettel finished in the top five in points (as Hamilton dominated), comparable to Verstappen’s early years, in his first five seasons after leaving Red. Bull.

What Verstappen achieved in 2021 was impressive, especially against a seven-time Formula 1 champion. Yet to declare him better than Vettel has ever been at Red Bull is premature.

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