Ex-Formula 1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella believes Max Verstappen’s talent level is comparable to that of Michael Schumacher and fears the reigning World Champion is “destined to dominate for a long time.”
Verstappen has won the previous two Drivers’ titles and currently leads the standings by 14 points after retaining Red Bull’s dominant start to 2023 with a stellar victory from ninth on the grid in Miami.
Since retiring for the second time in three races at the start of last season, Verstappen has gone on to win 17 of the last 24 races, leaving him with 35 career victories in total.
With Red Bull possessing a sizeable advantage at the front, Fisichella asserts that Verstappen, who retains a contract through 2028, could be set to reign at the top of F1 for a considerable period in the same way Schumacher did at the turn of the millennium.
“I raced against Schumacher and I think there is no one as strong as him in race management. He remains number one to this day,” the Italian declared via La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“But if we talk about driving talent, Max is on the same level. I fear that Max is destined to dominate for a long time.”
Verstappen was widely criticised by his more senior counterparts in the early phase of his F1 career for his aggressive racing approach.
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were vocal in their complaints about the Dutchman’s defensive driving during his debut campaign with Red Bull.
But after a string of five incidents in six rounds at the beginning of 2018, he managed to turn around his reckless reputation to the point mistakes have been at a premium in recent years.
Fisichella notes how Verstappen has transformed from a talented star into a complete driver since those formative years when he remained rough around the edges.
“At the beginning, he used to crash and make some mistakes due to inexperience, while now he hardly ever makes a mistake,” he acknowledged.
“He has acquired an incredible consistency of performance, eliminating weaknesses. He is fast in wet, dry, qualifying laps, and races. He is complete.”
Having recently surpassed Ayrton Senna for F1 podiums and rapidly closing on the Brazilian great in terms of race wins to occupy a place in the top five, Fisichella contends that Verstappen stands ahead of other true greats at his current stage.
The former three-time F1 race winner is also convinced that only Charles Leclerc on the current grid can be compared to the reigning champion, despite the Ferrari driver coming under fire recently after successive crashes across the Miami weekend.
“If we talk about precocity, considering what he has done and is doing at his age, he is even ahead of the greats of the past who preceded him,” he claims.
“Only Charles Leclerc can be compared to him in this regard. And in any case, a driver like Verstappen is born once every 20 years.”