Since his debut in 2015, Max Verstappen has been getting better and better. With three race wins to his name he’s established himself as one of the top drivers in the sport, and in 2017 was arguably up there with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel as one of the three best drivers of the year.
But in 2018, things have been going horribly wrong. In all three races so far, he’s cost both himself and the team a whole load of points courtesy of the sort of silly mistakes you’d be disappointed to see from a rookie, not someone with over 60 races of experience. His latest error of punting Vettel off with an overtake that was never going to happen sent the internet into rage mode.
Ricciardo: I'm going to line up the perfect overtake at the ideal point on the track.
Verstappen: I'm overtaking HERE NOW I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT #ChineseGP
— Stuart F1 Taylor (@chainbearf1) April 15, 2018
Its the year 2031 and Max Verstappen makes a huge mistake and clashes into the side of Charles Leclerc ruining his race, the 33 year old was defended by now chairman of RedBull Christian Horner saying "max is young he still has time to learn"
— mö (@FfsMo___) April 15, 2018
— Nino IUDI (@Ninoiudi) April 15, 2018
#verstappen still showing total amateur moves. Never be a world champion doing that
— Adam Jeff (@adamjeff1981) April 15, 2018
Verstappen could have won this race easily. Huge tyre advantage and track position but trying to do the hero overtakes rather than just waiting for a better opportunity. Frustrating to watch 😬
— Tom Bellingham (@TommyWTF1) April 15, 2018
Young inexperienced Verstappen has more race starts than Fangio #ChineseGP
— Cal (@Jose_Arrogantio) April 15, 2018
— Dean Woolford (@22deans) April 15, 2018
It gets to the point where you’re asking the question: Is Verstappen average?
— Scott (@IntoTheBarrier) April 15, 2018
— | Joseph kyalo | (@AmJose_) April 15, 2018
— F1Writers™ (@f1writers) April 15, 2018
Kvyat was dropped by Red Bull after one race where he hit Vettel. Third race error in a row for Verstappen, and he hit Vettel. Should Daniil unpack his race suit? No, didn't think so…… #ChineseGP
— Jake Sanson (@JakeSanson) April 15, 2018
Yeah, he’s having a bad year. Yes, he only has himself to blame and yes, he needs to change his approach. But does it mean he’s overhyped, undeserving of a Red Bull seat and in need of demoting back to Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat-style? No, of course not. It’s not like he’s the first young, talented driver to hit a rough patch.
In 2011 Lewis Hamilton found time between tweeting telemetry and making controversial comments to crash into the likes of Kamui Kobayashi, Pastor Maldonado and (on several occasions) Felipe Massa. In 2010 Sebastian Vettel won the championship, but he also cost his team a potential win in Turkey by colliding with his own teammate, and at Spa he speared into the side of Jenson Button whilst trying to overtake him, and earned the nickname ‘crash kid’.
Just look at the success and respect those guys have gone on to achieve since. Going through those experiences helped them to learn and mature; Verstappen has the opportunity to do the same as a result of this current bad patch. The question will be how quickly he can get his head in the right place, and how long it will take him to turn things around.
I’m sure he’ll manage it because he’s too good not to. Of course, he still deserves criticism (as would any driver), because his performances in the last couple of races have been completely awful.