F1 | Todt compares Max to former-Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen: “they’re straightforward, talented, focused and indifferent”
FIA president Jean Todt believes the Dutchman is very similar to former Ferrari driver and World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, both in terms of talent and character.
F1 is enjoying a battle as the Young Guns take on the Old Guard.
On the one hand, the new generation represented by 24-year-old Max Verstappen and his 'start-up' Red Bull team making its debut in 2005 at the Australian Grand Prix, after having transformed from the original Stewart team before it became Jaguar.
On the other, Mercedes with the 36-year-old Hamilton battling for his rapidly-disappearing generation of drivers – including Kimi Raikkonen who will retire at the end of the season – with a team whose legacy dates back to the 1954 French Grand Prix.
Today they are the best teams in F1 by a margin, with Honda-powered Red Bull really challenging the seemingly unbeatable Mercedes, who have dominated the sport for most of the last decade.
Red Bull was able to seriously challenge Mercedes for the first time in this turbo-hybrid era of the sport came as no surprise to Todt, who told RacingNews365: "It was not unexpected”.
“More stability in the rules means that less progress can be made and the margins are smaller. Both teams also have a lot of talented people and the engine departments have also continued to take action," Todt explained.
This year has been gruelling, albeit gripping, with 20 rounds gone and two decisive races left. One left in the unknown in Jeddah next Sunday and season finale to be hosted in the more familiar spotlight of Abu Dhabi.
According to FIA’s President, Hamilton and Verstappen are the standout drivers of this era, both making their respective teammates – Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez – look decidedly ordinary almost every weekend.
Referring to title contenders Max and Lewis, Todt continued: "Both teams have an outstanding driver. Every driver in Formula 1 is obviously good, but a small number have that extra talent. If that is combined with a good car, then we see what we see this year."
Todt was then asked his opinion on the 2021 F1 World Title. He very diplomatically replied: “I like Lewis”
“Of course I do admire his longevity, of course you know it is true it’s easier when you driving for the best car, best team in the long term.
“But he has the passion. I think the fact he is engaged is very good,” Todt said.
Then, he went on talking about Lewis being increasingly outspoken regarding social and environmental causes.
“It doesn’t mean that I always agree with the way he is engaging. But he has his beliefs, he expresses his belief, so I do like that, I do respect that”.
As for Verstappen, the chairman said, "Max is very different. He reminds me of Kimi: very straightforward, very talented and they have limited interests and they focus on it. Indifferent.”
Notoriously Todt masterminded Ferrari's glory years at the beginning of this century: he has been the key player in Michael Schumacher's extraordinary legacy. Thus, he was asked who he would have hired if Lewis or Max had been around at the time.
"When I was at Ferrari I wanted the best drivers. That's why I wanted Michael. It didn't matter if I was in rallying or sports cars, I always wanted to identify the best driver."
"Now Max and Lewis are the two best drivers. However, there are other drivers who can perform at their level in those cars," Todt suggested.
Round 21 of the 2021 F1 season is coming up next week hosted at the brand new Jeddah Corniche Circuit. We’ll see who’ll turn out to be the best, with Verstappen ahead of Hamilton by eight points and Mercedes topping the constructors' standings by five.