Max Verstappen ‘will not be champion forever and should be celebrated’

Max Verstappen’s dominance of Formula One must be “celebrated and not chastised”, former team boss Otmar Szafnauer has said.

Red Bull’s Verstappen is on course to take his fourth world championship in as many seasons after winning four of the opening five rounds so far.

But speaking ahead of this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, Szafnauer, who served as team principal at Aston Martin and Alpine, said: “You can’t get rid of Max. The sport has gone through this before. Max will not be champion forever, and it will change.

“We have had Michael (Schumacher) and Lewis (Hamilton) dominating in the past, and we have to celebrate Max for his brilliance and not chastise him for winning all the time.”

There are fears within the sport that Verstappen’s stranglehold could drive F1’s new Netflix fanbase away.

However, American Szafnauer believes a fourth race in the United States – to follow Miami, Las Vegas and Austin – could be integral in preventing interest from waning.

He continued: “It is amazing what Netflix and the combination of three races in America has done over there.

“I have friends from Florida who are visiting and one of my friends’ friends said his daughter, who is 17, saw a picture of me recently and said, ‘wow, do you know him?’ And that is the Netflix effect. Without Netflix, she might not have known that Formula One existed.

“What we have to do is keep those fans interested. You don’t want to lose them, and if Max is winning all the time, will that happen?

“At the Canadian Grand Prix last year, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke to all the team principals. The thing he said is you have to capitalise, and keep the fans and grow it, and he is right.

“But how do you keep them and grow it? Maybe a fourth race in America. Make it a destination race in New York or the West Coast and it will work. Miami is a destination race. Vegas is, and Austin is, too. Can there be four races in the States? I think so.”

Szafnauer – speaking in his role as chairman of EventR, his newly-launched app that he believes is set to revolutionise the way sports teams manage the logistics of group travel to major events – also urged Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to retain the services of Sergio Perez who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Szafnauer, who worked with Perez at Force India and then Racing Point before the Mexican joined Red Bull in 2021, said: “I was asked on stage recently, ‘if you are Christian Horner, who would you replace Checo (Perez) with?’ And I replied saying, ‘knowing Checo as well as I do, I would replace Checo with Checo. I would keep him’.

“Let’s not forget, Max won his first championship, partly because of the circumstances, but partly because of Checo, too (when he held off Hamilton in Abu Dhabi). That is when he earned the nickname in Mexico as the ‘Minister of Defence’.

“He’s had some lows. But from what I can see this year, apart from a couple of races where I think he should have finished a bit higher, I think he’s doing it.”


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