Four-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost believes the battle with Lewis Hamilton in 2021 eradicated the 'impatient kid' in Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver secured his third consecutive Drivers' title with second in the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint, securing the title with six races remaining before going on to seal a 14th win from 17 races in the main race at the Lusail International Circuit.
Verstappen's dominance over the past two seasons and his performances during that time have been a departure from his first seven years in the sport, where he was often maligned for his racecraft and antics.
But Prost has been impressed with the character transformation displayed by the Dutchman and writing for L'Equipe, he said: “Winning a third title is already something great.
“To win titles in a row is even greater. Because only a few great names have managed it.
“But I think that what makes Max Verstappen so great and so strong is his ability to be a great driver that he has been able to develop in order never to stumble and always to want more.
“There is no doubt that he has succeeded in becoming a great driver. But what, in my opinion, makes him even stronger is the way in which he has learned to be one with his car and his team.
“He’s a great whole who strives for perfection every day. When you hear the driver complaining about the bad behaviour of his single-seater during free practice on Friday morning, it’s not the anger of the kid who used to make mistakes and sometimes ended up in the wall because of his impatience.
“No, this Max disappeared at the end of 2021 at the end of his magnificent battle against Lewis Hamilton. I’m not going to talk about the highly controversial Abu Dhabi final, but about the way he and his Red Bull battled throughout the season against Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.”
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Bad sign for the competition
Whilst Verstappen's third title has been a formality since teammate Sergio Perez's struggles mid-season, the determination held by the Dutchman has often left him an agitated figure when heard speaking to race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase over team radio whenever the situation is not 100 per cent behind the wheel.
“Beating the seven-time World Champion gave him confidence and self-assurance. That first title made him stronger," explained Prost.
“Since then, he has calmed down. Except in his quest for perfection. It’s a bad sign for the competition because I don’t see him leaving any time soon.
"The next two years without regulatory changes won’t do much to change its current strength. And, from 2026, as he is in symbiosis with his team, they’ll be able to rise to the challenge together and at least fight for the title.”