Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey has played down accusations that Max Verstappen has an aggressive driving style.
Since arriving in F1 in 2015, Verstappen has come in for criticism over his robust tactics when overtaking or defending his position.
The Dutchman notably collided on-track with title rival Lewis Hamilton numerous times during the 2021 season, and the Briton said in Series 4 of Netflix's Drive To Survive that he thought Verstappen was "aggressive as hell".
However, Newey said criticism of Verstappen's driving style was unwarranted, and talked up the Dutchman's qualities in the cockpit.
"It's unfair to compare drivers from slightly different eras, but Max is right up there," Newey told the Evening Standard.
"I think this image of the aggressive driver is over-egged. Perhaps in his early races in F1 he was quite aggressive, but last season that was unjustified."
"He's very calm generally, very measured, he has tremendous reflexes and is a pleasure to work with."
Newey likens Verstappen to Hakkinen
Before joining Red Bull in 2006, Newey previously worked at Williams and McLaren, where he designed several championship-winning cars.
Having worked with seven F1 World Champions, Newey noted that Verstappen's approach reminded him of Mika Hakkinen, who won the title in 1998 and 1999 at the wheel of a Newey-penned McLaren.
"Mika didn’t say much and sometimes you had to translate what he was saying, but if you translated those 10 words correctly, they were very insightful," said Newey.
"Great drivers - and I'd put Max in that category - know what they want from the car and know how to communicate with their race engineer as to what they want and how to achieve it."
Viewed by others:
Newey's Red Bull success 'most satisfying'
Having worked with distinction at Williams and McLaren, many within F1 were surprised when Newey joined Red Bull in 2006.
The Milton Keynes squad had only come into existence the previous year after buying out the Jaguar team, and finished a lowly seventh in the 2005 Constructors' standings.
However, Newey's arrival coincided with an upturn in fortunes for Red Bull, with the drinks-backed squad taking their first Grand Prix win in 2009, before driver Sebastian Vettel wrapped up the following year's Drivers' Championship.
Having turned a mid-table outfit into a title-winning operation, Newey says his success at Red Bull has been more satisfying than his stints at Williams and McLaren, both of which were already well established teams before Newey came on board.
"When I joined Red Bull, people thought I was committing career suicide," said Newey.
"It's been the most satisfying because, along with Christian [Horner, Red Bull Team Principal], we took it from the ashes of Jaguar to how we want it."
F1 Podcast: What's next in F1's porpoising row?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the key topics from the Canadian Grand Prix, including the fierce debate over the FIA's intervention on porpoising.