Best is yet to come for Verstappen

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The best is yet to come for Max Verstappen and comparisons with Ferrari Formula One great Michael Schumacher will only get stronger, double world champion Fernando Alonso said on Thursday.

Verstappen, 26, is set to become a triple champion in Qatar this weekend, an achievement that will elevate the Dutch driver to a select group that includes the likes of Jackie Stewart and the late Ayrton Senna.

Schumacher won seven titles, five with Ferrari, and a record the German shares with Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen’s father Jos was a team mate of Schumacher at Benetton, the families becoming close and going on holidays together.

Schumacher was also Alonso’s main rival, the pair going wheel to wheel in thrilling battles when the Spaniard won his titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.

The Aston Martin driver, still racing at 42 and once also tipped for many more than two titles, said Verstappen had had an incredible season with 13 wins in 16 races and a record run of 10 victories in a row.

“When you make no mistakes and you deliver the job every Sunday, it’s big respect,” said Alonso.

Asked whether Verstappen could now be compared to Schumacher, Alonso let out a deep breath. “Maybe,” he said. “We have to wait and see. I think the next few years will be even better for Max, to be honest. He will keep adding championships so we will compare to Michael even closer in the future.”

Hamilton, who won six championships with Mercedes after his first with McLaren in 2008, was reluctant to rank Verstappen in the sporting pantheon.

“He has earned his position and he has done an amazing job with the package he has,” the Briton told reporters.

“The team have been phenomenal and faultless this year. They have raised the bar and as a team we have to look at that, and look at the areas where we can be better and match that and compete.”

Verstappen, who needs only three points and can secure the title in Saturday’s sprint race, agreed that comparisons were tricky — even if Schumacher’s early 2000s domination drew the same accusations of boredom that Verstappen is now getting.

“He (Schumacher) has won seven so there are a few more to go,” said the Red Bull driver. “When he was achieving these kind of things it was seen as normal because it was an amazing driver with an amazing team and everything came together and maybe people got bored of it. “I don’t think about reaching seven. We will see year-by-year what happens, but I am very proud to be able to achieve these kind of things.”