Max Verstappen is “practically unbeatable” at present, according to fellow world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
In Austria, the Red Bull driver claimed his fifth consecutive victory – after topping every single session at the Red Bull Ring including two separate qualifying sessions and races.
“If you look at the other drivers, they all have their ups and downs,” Villeneuve told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But not Max.”
Dr Helmut Marko even thinks it was the prospect of a weekend clean-sweep, rather than the extra point, that motivated Verstappen to push so hard for a fresh set of tyres to set the fastest race lap at the very end.
“I immediately said no, but he wanted those new tyres and he was unstoppable in this desire,” Marko smiled. “Now he can sleep peacefully.
“He is driving with unbelievable ease.”
It was also a weekend marred by the ‘track limits’ issue, with even seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton punished multiple times for breaching the white lines.
Verstappen, however, was almost nearly flawless on that count, too.
“I mean, you know where the lines are, right?” said the 25-year-old. “But it’s true I also had a lot more grip and traction.”
Indeed, although Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari have diced this season to be ‘best of the rest’ behind Red Bull, the gap to Verstappen has remained fairly static.
“Exactly,” said Verstappen when told that team rivals’ efforts to frantically upgrade their cars has not yet paid off.
“But I loved all the articles about it,” the Dutchman laughed.
Hamilton’s patience, in particular, appears to be boiling over at Mercedes at the same time as he negotiates for a new contract beyond this year.
The man he is negotiating with, Toto Wolff, even publicly rebuked the 38-year-old on the radio during Sunday’s race over Hamilton’s constant complaints about rivals’ track limits violations.
“Lewis, the car is bad – we know. Please drive it,” Wolff told his star driver.
He is hoping for better this weekend at the British GP.
“I heard that Ferrari and McLaren had an upgrade here,” Wolff said in Austria. “That could be an explanation. We’ll bring one to Silverstone and then we’ll see where we are.”
But even Wolff admits that while Red Bull may have the best car, Verstappen is clearly the best driver at the moment.
“Only the Red Bull with Verstappen is consistent,” he said. “Even with the other car, there are these fluctuations we see with (Sergio) Perez.”
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso agrees: “You see the same thing with us also at Ferrari and Mercedes. Only the Red Bull is consistent.”
Meanwhile, the FIA has urged the Red Bull Ring to add gravel traps at turns 9 and 10 next year in order to end the farcical ‘track limits’ issue.
“There are natural track limits,” said Kevin Magnussen. “That should be enough.”