Todt: Max is like Kimi, very different to Lewis

HAMILTON Lewis gbr, Mercedes AMG F1 GP W12 E Performance, VERSTAPPEN Max ned, Red Bull Racing Honda RB16B, portrait during the Formula 1 Heineken Grande Premio De Sao Paulo 2021, Sao Paulo Grand Prix, 19th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship, WM, Weltmeisterschaft from November 12 to 14, 2021 on the Interlagos Circuit, in Sao Paulo, Brazil - F1 - SAO PAULO GRAND PRIX 2021 - RACE DPPI/ Todt

With the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship delicately poised, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen leads Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by eight points with two to go, FIA President Jean Todt is not picking sides as he admits a deep admiration for both contenders.

F1 is enjoying a battle for the ages as the Young Guns take on the Old Guard. The new generation represented by 24-year-old Max Verstappen and his ‘start-up’ Red Bull team that began life at the 2005 Australian Grand Prix, having morphed from the original Stewart team before it became Jaguar.

On the other hand, Mercedes with 36-year-old Hamilton batting for his fast-disappearing generation of drivers in the top flight with a team whose legacy dates back to the 1954 French Grand Prix.

Today they are the top teams in F1 by a margin, with Red Bull powered by Honda really challenging the might of Mercedes, who have dominated the sport for most of the last decade.

This year has been gruelling, albeit enthralling, 20 rounds of the championship thus far with decisive races remaining in the unknown of Jeddah next Sunday and the more familiar floodlights of Abu Dhabi, which promises to host a humdinger of a finale.

Red Bull challenging Mercedes in the final year of the current F1 rules was expected

That Red Bull have been able to seriously challenge Mercedes for the first time, in this turbo-hybrid era of the sport, has not come as a 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 many talented people and the engine departments also continued to take steps.”

That Hamilton and Verstappen are the standout drivers of this era, both making their respected teammates – Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez – look decidedly ordinary on just about every weekend, is a bonus for the sport that has for too long been dominated by Mercedes.

Referring to the title contenders Max and Lewis, Todt continued: “In addition, both teams have an exceptional driver. Every driver in Formula 1 is of course 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.”

Who will win the 2021 F1 world title, Verstappen’s his first of Hamilton’s eighth?

Todt has respect for both drivers: “I like Lewis. I admire that he stays so good for so long. Of course, it is easier when you drive for the best team with the best car, but he does have the passion.”

“It’s good for Mercedes. At the moment there are still two champions with seven titles, but records are always there to be broken.”

Todt also respects and backs Hamilton’s widely reported social activism: “That he is always involved in whatever way is very good. Of course, it doesn’t always mean that I agree with the way he gets involved, but he believes in something, his own thing. I respect that.”

“Again, sometimes I think it could be done differently, but the fact that he wants to be so involved in every subject, I respect that too.”

As for the Verstappen, the President said: “Max is very different. He is a bit like Kimi Raikkonen. Very straightforward, enormously talented. His focus is very different.”

Todt: There are other drivers who can also perform at that level with those cars

Todt famously masterminded the Ferrari glory years at the turn of this century, the key player in the extraordinary Michael Schumacher legacy was asked if he would have hired Lewis or Max if they 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 the rally or sportscar world, I always wanted to identify the best driver.”

“Now Max and Lewis are the two best drivers. However, there are other drivers who can also perform at their level with those cars,” suggested Todt.

Round 21 of the 2021 F1 season is the all-new Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit with Verstappen leading Hamilton by eight points and Mercedes top of the constructors’ standings by five.