F1 legend Alain Prost believes that the Max Verstappen of 2021 ‘disappeared’ after his intense title fight with Lewis Hamilton. Now a three-time world champion, the Red Bull star’s approach to wheel-to-wheel battles and race management has developed significantly.
The pair shared one of the most intense title battles in modern F1 history two years ago, heading into the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi tied on points before the infamous events of the final lap saw the world championship swing the way of Verstappen.
Since then Verstappen has added a further two Drivers’ Championship titles to his collection, although the manner in which he has driven has changed dramatically. His 2021 fight with Hamilton was littered with on-track clashes with the most dramatic occurring at Monza, Silverstone and Saudi Arabia.
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In his battles with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the start of the 2022 campaign, Verstappen was much more calculated in wheel-to-wheel combat, while in 2023 he has been able to manage races from the front with a composure that was not seen during his fights with the seven-time world champion.
Discussing the change in approach since the pair’s legendary title fight in his L’Equipe column, Prost explained: “No, this Max disappeared after 2021, after that great fight with Lewis Hamilton.
“I won’t talk about the controversial final in Abu Dhabi, but I will talk about the way he and his Red Bull came together during the fight with Mercedes all season. That first title made him stronger. Since then he has calmed down, except in his pursuit of perfection.” Prost now fears for F1 due to Verstappen’s progression since his 2021 tussle with Hamilton.
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“It’s a bad sign for the competition because it won’t stop anytime soon,” he added. “The next two years without rule changes are not going to change much. And even from 2026 – because he and his team are very talented – they will rise to the challenge and at least compete for the title.”
Verstappen has been utterly unstoppable since kicking off the 2023 season with a win in Bahrain, taking 14 victories from a possible 17 ahead of the trip to the Circuit of the Americas this weekend.
Heading into the sprint weekend in Texas, Verstappen sits an unprecedented 209 points clear of his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and, if McLaren, Mercedes or Ferrari can’t make giant strides over the winter, is well-poised to battle for a fourth successive title in 2024.
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