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Ex-Ferrari driver hails 'phenomenon' Verstappen

With Max Verstappen having won the last two F1 World Championship titles, one ex-rival driver says the Dutchman can win many more.

Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa says Max Verstappen is capable of winning many more Formula 1 World Championship titles. After having controversially taken the 2021 title at the final round in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen repeated the feat in 2022, winning that year's crown in altogether more convincing fashion after setting a new record of 15 wins in a single F1 season. Verstappen’s dominant season prompted Massa to suggest that the Dutchman may be set for a sustained period of success in F1, and the Brazilian likened Verstappen to several of F1's champions of the past. "Max is a phenomenon. He is very focused, is racing perfectly and has an influential role within a team that follows his lead," Massa told Gazzetta dello Sport . "He is the best driver, with the best car and the best team. "You can compare him to Schumacher, Hamilton and Senna in their golden times. He can still win many titles."

Red Bull still strongest team – Massa

Verstappen and Red Bull's dominant 2022 season had appeared unlikely after the first three races of the year, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc winning two of them to seize the initiative in the title race, as Verstappen floundered with two mechanical retirements. However, Ferrari would win just two more races over the entire season, as Red Bull sorted out their reliability issues and took advantage of unforced errors and reliability issues from Ferrari to establish an unassailable lead in both championships. Even with Red Bull having the smallest permitted wind tunnel testing time of any team in 2023 – thanks in part due to a sanction for violating F1's budget cap in 2022 – Massa added that the drinks-backed squad would still start the new season as the team to beat. "[Red Bull] finished the season last year with a car that was much faster and more powerful than the rest of the field, so they remain the strongest team," said Massa. "It is difficult to say whether they will suffer from the punishment they received for violating the budget cap. "Ferrari got off to a strong start in 2022, but after that they suffered reliability problems, tactical problems and driver errors. "But above all, they lagged behind the progress Red Bull made during the season, so at the end of the day, things turned out the way they did. To win, you have to be perfect."

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