On top of defending his maiden F1 crown, Verstappen has now been given an added incentive to beat Lewis Hamilton again in the upcoming season
Lewis Hamilton has been warned that his Formula 1 rival Max Verstappen has an extra incentive to beat him over the course of the coming season.
The Red Bull ace became world champion last year after a dramatic last lap overtake at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, capping off a season throughout which the two heavyweights exchanged blows.
In the eyes of some, however, Verstappen’s achievement will be tainted by the huge slice of help he got from race director Michael Masi, whose controversial orders at the end of that race paved the way for his title success.
Now that the Australian has been relieved of his role by the FIA, Verstappen has the chance in the coming season to prove that he can repeat the trick without benefitting from a contentious call.
That is the view of another former world champion, Jenson Button, who believes the Dutchman will have that very point to prove in 2022.
“I’m sure he wants to come out fighting and fight for victory from the word go,” Button told Sky Sports F1.
“It’s kind of a world championship he has won, but I’m sure he wants to go and win another so he can go ‘look, it wasn’t down to Michael Masi’.
“It’s always difficult when there’s a controversial ending, but he’s an exceptional talent and I said that from the word go.
“I raced against his dad in F1, Jos Verstappen, and I raced against his mum – she was my team-mate in karting! Max was always going to be a good driver and it’s whether he can keep building on the natural ability he has.”
Button went on to say he believes Verstappen is “the fastest, most gifted driver” on the grid, though he added that he has a long way to go before his achievements can be compared to those of his current main rival.
“It’s whether he can improve on that and build himself into someone like Lewis who is the complete package,” the retired racer said.
After weeks of intense speculation, the FIA’s president Mohammed bin Sulayem finally announced on Thursday that Masi has been relieved of his role .
“I would like to inform you that a new race management team will be put in place starting in Barcelona for the test session,” he said in a video.
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“Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will act alternatively as race director, assisted by Herbie Blash as permanent senior advisor.
“Michael Masi, who accomplished a very challenging job for three years as Formula 1 race director following Charlie Whiting, will be offered a new position within the FIA.
“I presented this complete plan to the members of the World Motor Sport Council and the Senate who gave their full support.”
Other changes announced by the president include the introduction of a VAR-style system to help guide officials on race days, and the removal of direct radio lines between the race director and team bosses.