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Alain Prost

Former world champion identifies missing Verstappen titles ingredient

Alain Prost has explained what needs to happen for Max Verstappen's world championships to have higher value.

Verstappen win Japan
Article
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Four-time F1 world champion Alain Prost has explained that Max Verstappen's titles would be "worth more" if he had to fight for them, with most of his championships missing an outright battle.

With the obvious exception of 2021 where the title fight between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went down to the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver has been offered little competition.

In 2022, it initially looked like Charles Leclerc would challenge him for the drivers' championship, only for the Monegasque driver and Ferrari to make several errors.

That season, Verstappen secured the championship with four races remaining, after winning the Japanese Grand Prix. His closest competitor was Leclerc, albeit 146 points adrift.

Last year, Verstappen claimed his third consecutive title after finishing second in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint race. He won a staggering 19 races in 2023 and was 290 points ahead of Sergio Perez in second.

Whilst this season he sits at the top by just 13 points after four races, the general expectation is that he will match Prost's and Sebastian Vettel's four championships.

Ferrari are Red Bull's biggest threat this campaign but is unknown if they can take the fight to the Milton Keynes-based outfit for the entirety of the season. As for Mercedes, the less said the better.

The RB20 is the best car on the grid and is unstoppable it seems in the hands of Verstappen, with his superiority having resulted in no title fight since 2021.

In Prost's eyes, the Dutchman needs a challenger for his title triumphs to really be worth something.

Hope for 2025

“Max is one, if not the best Formula 1 driver currently, we have to accept that," Prost told Sports Illustrated.

"But a championship is worth more to whoever wins it when there is a battle between two or three teams."

Prost believes the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes need a "real first driver" to truly compete with Verstappen, who is undoubtedly Red Bull's lead star.

Ferrari treat Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as equals whilst Mercedes do the same with Hamilton and George Russell, with the expectation being that Ferrari will do the same in 2025 when the seven-time world champion moves across from the Silver Arrows.

As for Mercedes, perhaps Russell will be treated as an outright number one driver if Kimi Antonelli is promoted, as the young Italian star would require time to settle into the world of F1.

“Mercedes and Ferrari would have a better chance if, like Red Bull, they found a real first driver and focused more on that," added Prost.

"It's a shame they don't have it at the moment. Let's hope that next year they do it and then there could be another great battle."

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