Ex-Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has ranked Max Verstappen above Lewis Hamilton as the sport’s “best ever” driver.
Verstappen requires only three points in the shortened Sprint Race at this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix to secure his third consecutive Drivers’ Championship.
The Dutchman has thoroughly dominated the 2023 campaign, winning 13 of the 16 races at this stage, propelling a huge 177 points ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez.
Despite Verstappen still being some way short of Lewis Hamilton’s benchmark achievements of seven world titles and 103 race victories, Ecclestone believes the Red Bull ace has already surpassed the Briton.
Meanwhile, Ecclestone, formerly F1 CEO for 40 years, also conveys that Verstappen has gone above four-time champion Alain Prost, whom he previously viewed as the best.
“Max is the best driver ever,” he told the Daily Mail. “No doubts.
“I used to say Alain Prost. Now I would say Max. He’s the greatest. He is brightest with regards to getting the best out of the car.
“He doesn’t muck around. He gets right on the programme. In my list he is above Lewis Hamilton.”
Verstappen’s current stranglehold on the sport began in 2021 when he secured his first championship after a riveting title contest with Hamilton that went to the wire.
However, the two have not contested regular race victories since that season amid Mercedes’ failure to get on top of the current technical rules introduced last year.
Meanwhile, Red Bull has had the edge on the competition in this regulation cycle, claiming victory in all but six of the 38 races to be held with the latest generation of machinery.
But asked to compare the ex-title rivals, Ecclestone cites how Hamilton’s interests outside of racing mark him out against any other competitor presently in the series.
“Lewis is obviously super-super bright, super-super talented,” he noted. “Lewis understands people and gets the best out of them, whereas Max gets the best out of the car. He’s very different from Max.
“When Lewis stops racing, he can get into a different world — entertainment or whatever — but that won’t be the way Max could go.
“I’ll tell you Max is one of us. In our sphere of Formula 1 nobody is like Lewis, nobody is.”