Max Verstappen is “weak technically” and is not a superior driver to Sebastian Vettel in his peak when he won four consecutive F1 titles between 2010 and 2013 with Red Bull. That’s according to the team’s ex-head of engineering Guillaume Rocquelin, who remains on board as the head of their current driver academy.
Despite winning back-to-back titles, Rocquelin has argued that Verstappen is still inferior on a technical level to some of Red Bull’s former drivers as he humbled the Dutchman in light of his recent achievements.
He also declared that Vettel was already ahead of the Verstappen when he signed with Red Bull – insinuating that the 25-year-old still has some rough edges that are in need of improvement.
“I think Sebastian was a more complete driver than Max when he arrived with us. At the professional level, technique, mediation… he was trained at the [Michael] Schumacher ‘school’, who was his idol,” he told Eurosport France’s Les Fous du Volant podcast.
“I think Max maybe had more natural talent, that’s what he relied on the most. But Sebastian was the most complete.
“Max has always been a boss. He has enormous self-confidence, he knows what he wants and he is very direct.
“But I’ll be honest, Max is weak technically compared to other drivers we’ve worked with. I think he still has a lot of progress to make.
“He is a leader by his attitude, his results. But I think he can improve from a technical point of view and in the way of developing the car.”
Verstappen’s successive titles point towards the idea that F1 has now entered the ‘Verstappen era’ after eight years of Mercedes dominance spearheaded by Lewis Hamilton.
However, Rocquelin has played down those claims – instead suggesting the Red Bull star’s ascendancy started way back when he won his maiden race in Spain in 2016.
From that moment, it was clear Verstappen had all the makings of a future F1 champion but the car did not necessarily match his ambitions – two variables that are now in sync.
“He’s always had talent,” Rocquelin added. “To say that we are starting an era because he is starting to win titles is not necessarily correct. It started when he won his first race with us.
“Then there is also the quality of the car, we hope to continue to win titles. It’s up to us to make a car that matches its talent.”
Despite the recent demise of Hamilton and Mercedes, Dr Helmut Marko is adamant it’s the seven-time world champion who will be Verstappen’s greatest challenger once again next season despite the complications surrounding the W13 car this term.
“[Charles] Leclerc was very strong in qualifying,” the German broadcaster told NTV. “But he was prone to making mistakes.
“I see (Lewis) Hamilton as a stronger challenger for 2023. He has a clear advantage in terms of experience, he can motivate himself incredibly well and I’m also convinced that Mercedes will put a better car on the track next year.”
Hamilton is still yet to triumph in a race this season, while Verstappen has stormed to 14 victories and two additional podium finishes.