Mark Webber backs ‘phenomenal’ Max Verstappen to cruise to another F1 title

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: XPB Images Ltd/Alamy</span>
Photograph: XPB Images Ltd/Alamy

Max Verstappen is set to seal a second Formula One world championship in no short order, believes the former driver Mark Webber. The Dutchman’s Red Bull team are firing on all cylinders and Webber, who won eight races with them, is convinced they have a car and driver that are unmatched this season.

Verstappen won his first F1 title in 2021 and is already in a strong position this year. With nine races of a 22-race season complete he leads his teammate Sergio Pérez by 46 points and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 49 points. After six wins, including five from the last six races, Webber predicted Verstappen would close out the championship comfortably.

Related: Max Verstappen holds off Carlos Sainz to win Canadian Grand Prix

“Red Bull will continue to dominate this championship,” he said. “They have a car that is very good on downforce levels, on all compounds of tyre. It’s like a tennis player on all surfaces or a golfer on all holes, short, long, chipping, putting, driving, the Red Bull can do everything. Red Bull have pretty much an answer for anything at the moment, Max could wrap it up with three races to go.”

Webber drove for Red Bull between 2007 and 2013, including the period alongside Sebastian Vettel when the team won four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles. He went on to drive for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship, which he won alongside Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in 2015. The 45-year-old was speaking at the launch of the new Porsche 963, unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with which the marque will return to the top category of sportscar racing next season, including their attempt to secure a 20th win at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Australian was no stranger to team orders while at Red Bull and the team have been clear they will favour Verstappen over Pérez this season. However, Webber believed the Dutchman had proved he was already firmly in the ascendant at the last two rounds in Baku and Montreal.

“I like Sergio a lot but over the course of the season, over time, Max will just find a way to start accumulating bigger points,” he said. “In Azerbaijan Max drove away down the road, it was a very emphatic victory. Then in Canada it’s raining, it’s dry, it’s cold, it’s tricky and Max all weekend was phenomenal.”

Verstappen’s main threat this season was from Leclerc and Ferrari, who opened strongly as Red Bull suffered reliability issues in the opening rounds. However, while Red Bull have gone from strength to strength, Ferrari’s challenge has stalled.

Leclerc had enjoyed a 46-point lead after the third round in Australia but has since suffered two retirements and dropped points at Monaco after his team made a strategic error. They had to fit a new engine in Canada, relegating Leclerc to the back of the grid.

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In contrast Webber admired the strength in depth and continuity that Red Bull had maintained since his time driving with the team. “I know deep down they like the heat, delivering under pressure,” he said. “Strategically they are brave, they are quite free, even with the trophy cabinet they have, they don’t have paralysis by analysis. Give them a job and they just get on with it.

“Hanna Schmitz, the race strategist, she was there when I was there. The same people have been through the tough times and the great times, that’s something I really admire.”

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