Verstappen: Here come the Senna comparisons

It’s natural to draw comparisons from a particular person with one you’ve known from the past and it usually helps categorize things for you when doing so. In the case of Lewis Hamilton, I was put off by all of the comparisons to the late Ayrton Senna because I felt it placed a lot of pressure on the young man’s back when he entered Formula 1 in 2007.

While Senna was a hero of Hamilton’s, like he has been for many F1 drivers, I believed that Lewis would forge his own career and have his own approach to F1 other than what Senna did and to be truly honest, there is only one Senna, Schumacher, Clark or Stewart.

My radar has gone up again now that Red Bull’s enigmatic talent-spotter, Helmut Marko, has made comparisons regarding his new protégé Max Verstappen with…yep, you guessed it, Ayrton Senna.

Max is no Senna because, as we mentioned above, there was only one Senna. Max may be doing things similar or following a similar career path but to place the pressure of Senna’s record and abilities on a 16-year-old is a lot of weight.

It’s the same weight I cautioned F1 fans not to place on Hamilton back in 2007 because there was no reason Lewis needed the additional pressure of having to win as many titles as Senna did. He still hasn’t won that many nor achieved what Senna did and that’s the fickle and unpredictable timing of F1.

I think there was a moment when Lewis started to believe the hype and expected success to simply happen and it didn’t. F1 isn’t that easy or predictable and it gives you more reason to appreciate what Senna, Schumacher, Clark, Stewart and even Sebastian Vettel have achieved. Much of F1 is about timing. Right car, right team, right time.

Telling the official F1 site in a Q&A, Marko said:

Q: You’ve been the driving force behind Max Verstappen’s signing with Toro Rosso for next season. What do you expect from someone so young?
HM: He is an exceptional talent that comes along only once in decades…

Q: Can you compare him to anyone?
HM: Most likely Ayrton Senna. And in such a case you must not look at his age. He has been talking with people who are experts when it comes to the development of youngsters and they all say that (in terms of) his mind he is more like 22 than 16. And regarding his skills behind the steering wheel, he has been racing since he was four years old – professionally. So we expect him to be competitive from the first race. We are not playing the lottery – we know what we are doing. And success proves us right.

Fair enough but Max has a lot to prove in his own right and nothing to prove as juxtaposed with Senna. I will be happy for Max to get off to a solid start and move on from there.

When Lewis came into F1, the media and fans were calling him the next Senna and ascribing him with eclipsing Schumacher’s title—when he hadn’t won a single title yet—and talking about how he would completely rewrite the F1 history books breaking all records and any competitors. Whatever.

Let’s not make the same mistake with Max Verstappen because chances are, he won’t either. It would be great if he did and I wish him all the success in the world but realistically Lewis has shown us that striding into F1 and eroding all it’s past glories in favor of your glory is not something easily achieved. In fact, even when you do start to make an impact, you can get booed on the podium for your efforts in the case of Vettel. It’s a fickle world, F1.

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