JUNE 10, 2021
Verstappen now faster than older Hamilton says Irvine
Max Verstappen has performed an overtaking manoeuvre to stand alone as "the fastest driver" on the 2021 grid.
That is the view of Eddie Irvine, who says Red Bull's Dutch championship leader reminds him of when he was paired at Ferrari with the great Michael Schumacher.
"Verstappen is definitely the fastest driver out there at the minute," the 55-year-old Ulsterman told Betway.
"But you have to say Lewis Hamilton is probably still the top driver. It's been fantastic to watch those two guys go at it," he said.
Irvine has been critical of Verstappen's erratic and aggressive driving in the past, but he says the 23-year-old is now "definitely getting his act together".
"He's always been super-fast, and you can see that he's by far the most dominant team leader on the grid. He's had many, many different second drivers in the team and none of them have got close to him.
"So it's a bit like the Michael Schumacher effect," he said.
"While Lewis has been regularly out-qualified and outperformed by his teammates, you'd have to say Verstappen is probably the ultimate talent, although Lewis is a consummate professional and has very few weak spots."
A spotlight is on both Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez this year, as they are playing crucial roles alongside their respective teams' top drivers.
But Irvine, having served as Schumacher's teammate at Ferrari between 1996 and 1999, knows the feeling well.
"Their jobs are to do the best they can do - that's it," he said.
"Bottas has beaten Hamilton before - more often than he has lately. Perez is new in there against Verstappen, but Verstappen has shown that the game is already over.
"They're both de facto number 2s, but I don't think against two guys like Hamilton and Verstappen that's a great negative," Irvine added. "I don't think anybody in Formula 1 would go up against those two guys and regularly beat them.
"I think Hamilton is getting older now and his pace isn't as good as it used to be, but he's still - as I said - a consummate professional.
"And I think people know that anyone who goes against Verstappen is going to get beaten because of his pure speed," said the former Ferrari driver.