By Daniel Wilson.
Since making his Formula One debut in Melbourne last year, Max Verstappen has surprised even himself with just how fast he has risen through the ranks, and the sea of Dutch flags in the packed grandstands at Spa on Sunday is all the proof you need of this.
Still a teenager, he has already been promoted to the senior Red Bull team and broken records since doing so.
But in recent races, his star appeal has attracted some criticism from the media and most notably, his fellow drivers.
Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix was the latest race where the Dutchman left as the main talking point. After becoming the youngest driver in 50 years to start a race on the front row of the grid, Verstappen attracted anger from the likes of Kimi Raikkonen after an aggressive move into the first corner, which forced the Finn to collide with teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Raikkonen also accused Verstappen of dangerous driving for making a late defensive move up the hill from Eau Rouge, when the Ferrari driver had to brake at 200mph to avoid hitting the Red Bull.
Spa wasn’t the first time the two drivers had got in each other’s way. Raikkonen criticised the Dutchman for a similar move at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month when he made two direction changes in the braking zone of turn two, which resulted in Kimi damaging his front wing while battling for fifth place.
Nico Rosberg has also been vocal against Verstappen, calling him up on a late change of direction in the braking zone of the hairpin at the German Grand Prix. However, Rosberg was penalised for forcing Max off the track as a result.
So, is he dangerous? Well, Kimi thinks so. He said on Sunday that Max ‘will’ cause a serious incident in the future. But is that a bad thing?
I personally think Max is brilliant for the sport, and while his driving style is controversial, it’s largely paying dividends. He’s already become the youngest ever race winner and has a few podiums to add to his growing trophy collection.
We all know that fortune favours the brave, and Max’s seemingly impossible overtakes around the outside of Blonchimont at Spa and Becketts at Silverstone are no doubt stained into the history books.
The stewards seem to have the same view on him. He’s avoided penalties and he’s bringing life back into F1, which is exactly what it needs. He’s divisive, dangerous and dazzling – and that quite literally, is a winning combination.