Herbert: ‘If Max had been smart in Silverstone and Monza, he would have been champion’


According to former driver Johnny Herbert, the 2021 season will have the best title fight he has ever seen. He praises Max Verstappen for how he handled the pressure as a youngster in his first title fight, but questions his aggression. Herbert wonders if the Dutchman could not have been more sensible in some races. Due to a cleaner racecraft, Herbert expresses a slight preference for Lewis Hamilton in the title fight.

Either way, the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton will go down in the history books as one of the closest-fought seasons in Formula 1 history. It is the first time since 1974 that two title candidates have entered the final race with exactly the same number of points. According to Herbert, the 2021 season will be made by the duo, and we have gained a great deal. With Lewis on seven titles, possibly eight on Sunday, he is the best driver of all time. But this year has shown that we now have two greats,” the former F1 driver writes in The Guardian. He is of course referring to Max Verstappen.

Verstappen’s debut reminds Herbert of other legends such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, and also rival Hamilton. “You could tell they were special in their first few races.” But the Sky Sports commentator also praises Verstappen’s growth. Until this year, the Dutchman never had the car to take a shot at the world championship, which means that he is experiencing the pressure of that battle for the first time this year. He did that excellently. “He never looked like it was too much for him. His mental strength is incredible in so many ways.” Herbert even says that Verstappen ‘has brought racing back to Formula 1.’

‘Lewis has the smarter racecraft’

However, he can also go beyond that. “He has gone over the top in the last few races. He has the mentality of winning at all costs, and that’s his biggest weakness.’ Herbert, who was critical of Verstappen’s driving behavior at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, wonders whether the Dutchman’s aggression is not bothering him. “Had he been smart at Silverstone and Monza, if he’d left room for Lewis and come second, he probably would have been champion already,” said Herbert.

The Brit says he likes to watch both drivers, and that both are fantastic behind the wheel. Yet he has a slight preference for his compatriot. “If you force me to pick a winner, I’ll go for the guy who does it with the most skill: keep his car within the white lines, don’t go off track for overtaking, keep it clean.” Herbert is referring to Hamilton, logically given his statements about Verstappen’s race in Jeddah. “Lewis has a slightly smarter racecraft right now. He knows how to win championships, by being honest and fast.’ It’s not going to be easy for Hamilton, Herbert thinks, and that’s what makes this season so great. “Epic and impossible to predict.”

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