One of the best Formula One drivers in the world, Dutchman Max Verstappen, doesn’t want to be identified as the new Michael Schumacher.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live he was asked how much he thinks he compares to Michael Schumacher, who retired in 2013 after an outstanding career in which he was often called the best Formula One driver ever.
“That’s what makes me nervous,” Verstappen said in a clear hint that he doesn’t think he’s Schumacher’s heir.
His Formula One mentor, Niki Lauda, echoed those comments last week during the German Grand Prix when he said Verstappen is different from his hero.
“When I met with him when he was 17, I thought, ‘You are the new Michael. You have all the qualities. I have a feeling that you are going to be number one one day,’” Lauda said. “And now this is three years later I don’t know if he is. If he is, I am happy for him. If he is not, then we go to Melbourne.”
Verstappen, a rising star in the sport, has collected seven career victories and his overall win-to-point ratio is second behind only Schumacher’s. He has already won twice this season, but he has also had a handful of incidents with other drivers.
“Right now I am a bit scared because I am not Michael, so what if I make a mistake?” he said. “There are very strict rules in F1 and very tight regulations so if you don’t respect what the promoters want or what the team want, you are punished. I try to listen, to learn, to be open but of course if I make a mistake you know the consequences. It’s down to you as a driver to make the right decisions.”
Team boss Toto Wolff denied in the buildup to the German Grand Prix that Verstappen was being put in danger because he goes out too soon.
“I am positive that we have enough support in the car,” Wolff said. “Max needs the Ferrari protection. He needs to go out by a certain time; otherwise I am concerned because he could end up in the wall. That is the general rule in F1. That is what is there for. In Max’s case, we have the safety car and we have the Ferrari in front for at least two-thirds of the race.”
If Verstappen hits any trouble there, it’s likely to be down the road. There are only three races remaining before the end of the season in Australia in March.