Verstappen has made a promising start to the season in what is a Red Bull car with the speed to challenge Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. The 23-year-old Dutch driver won the second grand prix of the season at Imola after Hamilton snatched the season opener away in final laps in Bahrain, and it all looks set up for a compelling year-long battle between the seven-time champion and the future star.
Coulthard believes Verstappen has everything he needs to become a world champion, so long as his car holds together.
“They are the real deal in terms of outright pace,” Coulthard told the Daily Mail. “There’s no question if you can deliver the lap time in qualifying and then you don’t have reliability issues in the race – that’s where Mercedes have been so strong over the last several years, they have had qualifying pace and they have had unbelievable reliability.
“So the only thing that I think can stand in the way of Max and Red Bull Racing really taking this championship is the racing Gods maybe getting involved in a few things with reliability because he is definitely experienced enough, he is definitely mature enough, which at 23 seems incredible but he is ready. He is more than ready.”
Coulthard says Hamilton will be “relishing the challenge” after dominating the top of the sport for so long.
“He generally finds another gear when he’s really pushed,” Coulthard said of Hamilton. “That’s great for his legacy, that’s great for his motivation and that’s great for Formula One fans. We’ve seen two great races, hopefully we will have a third and at some point those guys are going to come to blows.”
Meanwhile F1 has announced sprint races will decide the grid at three grands prix in 2021. Under the new plans, a sprint qualifying will take place on Saturday afternoon to set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. The qualifying will be in the format of a race, run over 100km and lasting around 25-30 minutes, allowing the drivers to go flat-out without needing to pit.
Points will be awarded to the top three finishers, with three points for the victory down to one point for third.
The traditional Q1, Q2 and Q3 qualifying format will be moved to the Friday, with the session used to set the grid for the sprint races rather than the main race.
As a result of the Friday qualifying, practice will be reduced to two one-hour sessions. Free Practice 1 will take place on Friday before qualifying and FP2 will be held on the Saturday before the sprint race.
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