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Max Verstappen

F1 urged to 'celebrate brilliance not chastise' Verstappen dominance

Max Verstappen has won 38 of the past 49 grands prix and is en route to a fourth F1 drivers' title. Will the recently acquired new fans stay with the sport?

Verstappen win China 2024
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To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen should be praised for his crushing domination of F1 at present rather than criticised for making the sport boring.

That is the verdict of former Formula 1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer after witnessing Verstappen take three consecutive drivers' titles, and start this season superbly to suggest a fourth is on the horizon.

Since the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations at the start of 2022, in particular, Verstappen has won 38 of 49 grands prix, and with 58 overall, is now third on the all-time list behind only Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103).

With F1's growth burgeoning since the arrival of owners Liberty Media in 2017, and underpinned by Netflix's 'Drive to Survive' series, the concern is the volume of new fans attracted to the sport will soon start to turn away if Verstappen's run continues.

Szafnauer, previously team boss with Force India, Racing Point, Aston Martin, and Alpine, recognises fan engagement is vital, but F1 "cannot get rid" of Verstappen.

Speaking to invited media, including RacingNews365, he added: "Look, the sport has gone through this before. Max won't be champion forever. It will change. We have had Michael and Lewis.

"Now you have got the Netflix fans who are just learning and you don’t want to lose them. If Max is winning all the time, will you lose them? I don’t know the answer to that.

"But we have to celebrate Max for his brilliance and not chastise him for winning all the time."

Hamilton past his best?

The question as to who will be Verstappen's team-mate next season, providing the Dutch driver remains with Red Bull, is a hotly debated topic at present. Szafnauer has previously stated that Sergio Perez should be handed a new deal.

As to who would be the ideal candidate to push Verstappen in the same machinery, that is a different debate for Szafnauer to mull over, with McLaren's Lando Norris getting the nod.

Asked as to whether anybody can touch Verstappen, he replied: "For me, I love Lewis, he's done a wonderful job, but he is at a different age in his career.

"Personally, I would stick Lando next to Max to see what happens. I'm not saying Lando should do that, but you are asking me who can beat Max."

Suggested to Szafnauer that Hamilton was past his best, he said: "It's really hard to know. You have to be in the same equipment.

"But the thing I respect about Lewis is that he works super hard and he is a great racer. It doesn't matter where he qualifies.

"I watched the last race (Chinese Grand Prix), and he was behind one of the Alpines saying 'I can't catch him'. I am looking at the lap times, and he was right, the lap times were very similar.

"But where did he finish? In the points. He somehow managed to do it. He is a great racer, he doesn’t give up, and the other thing I like about him, he is very respectful on the race track."

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying