Max Verstappen closes in on ‘amazing achievement’ of matching Ayrton Senna

By Sports Desk June 16, 2023

Max Verstappen has admitted it is beyond his childhood dreams to draw level with Ayrton Senna’s victory tally ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Verstappen heads into Sunday’s race at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve just one victory shy of the great Brazilian’s haul of 41 after winning five of the opening seven rounds in his dominant Red Bull machine.

Verstappen was not even born when Senna was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, but a victory here would take the 25-year-old into joint fifth in the pantheon of F1 winners.

“When I was a little kid, I would never have imagined being on that list,” said the two-time world champion.

“But you cannot compare it. People have different careers and some drivers get into a race-winning car sooner than others and nowadays we have more races than back in the day.

“I never look at the numbers, but it is an amazing achievement, that’s for sure.”

A sixth victory of a one-sided campaign would leave only Hamilton (103 wins), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) ahead of Verstappen.

Hamilton reached 41 wins to draw level with his boyhood hero Senna at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2015 before going on to surpass Schumacher’s haul five years later and stand on his own as the driver to have won the most races in the history of the sport.

However, the seven-time world champion, who has not won a race since his contentious championship defeat to Verstappen at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, admitted that his rival could “absolutely” eclipse his record.

But when asked if Hamilton’s record is on the horizon, Verstappen said: “It is very hard to beat.

“You need to be in the right car for a long time and we don’t know if we have that. I am just going with the flow and enjoying the moment.”

Verstappen has already established a 53-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez on his seemingly unstoppable march towards a hat-trick of world titles.

The world champions are undefeated in the opening seven fixtures, winning 17 of the past 18 races, and could become the first team to win every round in a single season. A victory here on Sunday would also be the team’s 100th in F1.

“For the sport, I understand people get bored if one team is dominating,” added Verstappen.

“But we have seen it at Mercedes, we have seen it at Ferrari, and we have seen it at Red Bull in the past.

“For me, it provides me with even more motivation because I know I have a car that can win.

“If you look at how we are performing, yes we can win every race, but it is not realistic. As long as I win the championship, that’s the most important thing.”

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  • Hamilton and Verstappen confident of dethroning Norris at Spanish Grand Prix Hamilton and Verstappen confident of dethroning Norris at Spanish Grand Prix

    Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are confident they can claim victory from the clutches of Lando Norris ahead of Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix. 

    The pair, who have won the previous eight Spanish Grands Prix between them (three for Verstappen and five for Hamilton), start second and third on the grid in Barcelona. 

    The seven-time world champion out-qualified team-mate George Russell for only the second time this season as the Mercedes drivers took third and fourth, underlining their re-emergence as contenders close to the front after a series of car developments. 

    “I’m really happy, thank you everyone I’m super happy to be here in the top three," Hamilton said. "It’s been a difficult year and a huge amount of work from everyone back at the factory, and finally we are starting to see those incremental steps moving closer to the guys ahead.

    “I didn’t expect us to be fighting for pole necessarily, but there were bits there where I thought maybe we will be close and so to be there I’m just grateful.”

    On the team making steps forward, he added: “We’ve made huge steps forward and it’s really just down to every single individual back at the factory who is pushing and designing and making the new parts that we get to bring as early as possible to these races.

    "Slowly the car is crafting into a racing machine that we can hopefully fight the guys at the front.

    “George did a great job today so hopefully tomorrow we can apply pressure to the two cars ahead.” 

    Red Bull's Verstappen will start on the front row, but in second place after being pipped by Norris to claim his second career pole. 

    The Dutchman appeared out of reach when he improved his own time, which was already fastest, by more than 0.2 seconds on his final run, only for Norris to cross the line moments later to beat Verstappen by 0.02 seconds. 

    However, Verstappen is confident of claiming a seventh victory of the season to grow his lead over Leclerc at the top of the driver's championship. 

    "I think in qualifying it was all coming together a bit nicer," Verstappen said. "We have been trying to find the balance because the practice sessions have been difficult.

    "So I was quite happy in qualifying - I even got a nice little tow from Checo to Turn One to really extract everything we could. But unfortunately, it was just not enough. That is how it goes sometimes and overall we can still be very happy with this performance in qualifying and definitely all to play for tomorrow.

    "Even throughout qualifying, the wind started to pick up a little bit, maybe that made it a bit more difficult for us. Overall, a good performance again in qualifying.

    "They are never easy qualis because you're always in a battle with yourself. of course now, there's more teams. And when it's that close for pole position, it's always great."

  • Norris celebrates 'pretty much the perfect lap' after pipping Verstappen to pole Norris celebrates 'pretty much the perfect lap' after pipping Verstappen to pole

    Lando Norris celebrated "pretty much the perfect lap" after he claimed pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen.

    McLaren's Norris set the best time of 1:11.383 in Barcelona on Saturday, which had started dismally for the team when their hospitality facilities had to be evacuated due to a fire.

    Norris, who was 0.2 seconds quicker than Verstappen, showed no sign of distraction though, and with all staff having been safely ushered from any danger, it was a day to celebrate for the team, whose second driver Oscar Piastri rounded out the top 10 despite failing to set a time in Q3.

    "It was pretty much a perfect lap, when you are on a good lap and getting excited but the whole thing went perfectly in the end," he said.

    "It was close but super happy, it was my best pole position, I've not had many. We've been close all weekend but really this was about a perfect lap and that is what I did today.

    "It's not just this weekend, we've been quick the last two months, and since Miami we've been very strong.

    "We probably missed out on pole by not doing a perfect lap but today was the perfect lap."

    It was also a good day for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, who qualified in third, one place ahead of team-mate George Russell.

    Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz placed fifth and sixth respectively.

    Top 10

    1. Lando Norris (McLaren) 

    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

    3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    4. George Russell (Mercedes)

    5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

    6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

    7. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

    8. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

    9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

    10. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

  • Norris: Catching Verstappen more likely than previous seasons Norris: Catching Verstappen more likely than previous seasons

    Max Verstappen is still the favourite to win the Formula One world title, but Lando Norris is more confident that the Red Bull driver can be caught.

    Verstappen is in the hunt for his fourth straight world championship crown, and leads the drivers' standings with five race wins to his name in 2024.

    However, only 31 points separate the Dutchman, who is on 169, and second-placed Charles Leclerc, while McLaren's Norris sits third with 113 following his victory in Miami last month.

    Mercedes, meanwhile, have come back into contention in recent races, with both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton impressing in qualifying, albeit they have been unable to translate that into a victory as of yet.

    But with more contenders, Norris feels the field is opening up.

    "There is more chance and possibilities now, especially if Mercedes are in the fight; more chance of having a bigger swing of points." he said, as per BBC Sport, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

    "A bad weekend for Max was third but it could be fifth or sixth.

    "And if you can be the guy who wins, within one weekend you can turn quite a lot of points around fairly quickly. If it goes like that, there is a higher chance."

    Norris conceded, though, that Verstappen is still at the very top of his game.

    He added: "Max's bad weekend is never going to be a bad weekend. It's still going to be a good amount of points. He is just strong in all areas. It is rare he makes mistakes or messes up qualifying.

    "But with more pressure you never know how that changes, and always with pressure it is always easier to make mistakes."

    In the world of Mercedes, Hamilton has urged the team's fans to give backing to Russell, who has faced accusations of the team favouring him, given his team-mate is set to join Ferrari next season.

    "I think they know if you look over the years, we've always been a strong team. We've always worked really hard together," Hamilton told reporters.

    "I think we need support, not negativity, and I wasn't actually aware that George was experiencing negativity.

    "George has done nothing but his best every single weekend and is delivering for the team, so he can't be faulted at all.

    "Of course, there can always be things done better within the team, and that comes through conversation, through communication, and that's something that we are consistently working on.

    "But we're all in the same boat. We're all working hard together. We want to finish on a high and feel that we owe that to our long-term relationship that we've had."

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