Max Verstappen has “gotten away” with a number of on-track incidents, according to former F1 driver Stefan Johansson, who believes the Dutchman is copying Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. When the Dutchman burst onto the scene in F1 back in 2015 at the tender age of 15, Verstappen quickly built up a reputation for his aggressive driving style.
His rivals on the track would often criticise Verstappen for overstepping the mark on occasions.
In his first few years with Red Bull, Verstappen’s sometimes erratic decisions would result in a DNF.
Verstappen has seemingly toned down some of his reckless driving recently and honed his craft to stay out of trouble.
But he was put to the test more than ever last season in his close encounters with Hamilton on the track.
The seven-time world champion often made remarks about trying to steer clear of Verstappen on the track out of fear he would be taken out.
The title contenders collided on two separate occasions at Silverstone and Monza as well as a bizarre coming together at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Verstappen came in for particular criticism for the latter two collisions and Johansson believes the 24-year-old has copied the driving styles of Senna and Schumacher.
He wrote in his blog: “The issue we have right now on track is that Max has taken the Senna playbook and the Schumacher playbook to a whole new level.”
While Johansson feels that most drivers on the grid have plenty of respect for one another, he doesn’t feel as though those who do go beyond the limits currently get punished enough.
F1 officials brought in new regulations a few years ago which extended the run-off areas of certain tracks, which Johansson believes has caused more confusion than anything else.
“Generally, I think there’s a good code of conduct between the drivers,” he added.
“Most of the current crop of the new generation of drivers are racing very clean but hard, there’s been some really great battles this year but they’re not at the front and therefore it goes unnoticed for the most part. No one cares about the guys in fifth or sixth place.
“I don’t have a lot of optimism for the changes from the officials.
“Every year decisions about driving standards and enforcement are getting worse, more and more muddy with more grey areas.
“If Max can get away with what he’s gotten away with in certain cases this year, then like Leclerc said, ‘Ok, fine. If that’s how we’re going to race, then that’s how we have to race.’
“However, a lot of these incidents would automatically be avoided if they changed the design of the tracks and got rid of the huge run off areas we currently have on nearly all the tracks.
“This sanitization of the tracks has brought on more problems than the ones they were trying to solve in the first place.
“It’s ironic that we don’t seem to have anywhere near the number of incidents in Monaco for example, where the track limit is basically the guardrail.
“If the drivers know where the limit is, they will obviously stay within that limit, because if you go past it, you will end up in the guardrail and your day is over.
“But when you have a run off area the size of two football fields, and no clear rule of what is or is not allowed it becomes a complete joke.
“Seemingly it’s ok for anyone to go past the track limit on the starts for example, likewise it seems ok to not even attempt to turn until you’re actually on the white line or even past it, when you’re fighting for position.
“It’s then up to the guys in race control to decide what is right or wrong. It’s a horribly flawed system and there must be a way to avoid this going forward.”