Scheckter: Hamilton brilliant, Verstappen smart, Alonso overrated

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 18: (L-R) Second placed Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team, Adrian Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing, First placed Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 18, 2023 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

In a rare interview, Formula 1 World Champion Jody Scheckter gave some interesting opinions on the top three drivers of the current era: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton and Verstappen have dominated the past decade in F1, the pair along with Alonso dominating the headlines throughout the period. The latter was never really a challenger since his Ferrari days, hence his last victory was back in 2013.

On the other hand, Hamilton is a seven-time F1 World Champion, a winner of a record 103 GP races and Verstappen is a soon-to-be triple title winner, with this year’s F1 drivers’ title a formality. Unbeaten in 14 races so far this season, Red Bull’s dominance has been staggering. This weekend at the Singapore Grand Prix, Max is on course for an incredible 11th win in a row.

When will this rampant destruction of their F1 rivals and record books end? In an interview with Stats Perform, Scheckter ventured: “It really depends on the cars, to a large extent. There’s no question he’s good enough but has he always got the winning car.

“To think Lewis had a dominant car for a long period of time, not to take anything away from him. I think he’s brilliant and smart. You can get in a bad car now and then, doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re not going to be winning.

“Right now, Max has the car to win. Granted, you can’t put anything against it. If he has this dominance all the time, it could be maybe eight F1 drivers’ championships,” reckoned the F1 legend and 1979 World Champion.

Jody: Max seems to get it all together and real championship material

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Verstappen became the youngest driver in F1 when he made his debut aged 17 at the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix, but Scheckter believes that the 25-year-old has had to refine his technique and tactics on the track to fulfil his championship-winning potential.

“He’s obviously quick as anything, but he’s aggressive. But he’s also smart and comes out on the top in these different very difficult situations. At the beginning, he was too aggressive. But now he seems to get it all together and real championship material.”

Scheckter, who cut his teeth in series like Can-Am in the USA, himself was considered “too aggressive” when he burst onto the F1 scene. He was involved in one of the sport’s biggest shunts at the 1973 at Silverstone on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix. The South African eventually calmed down to win the title in 1979 for Ferrari.

His teammate, for two years at Ferrari, was the notoriously aggressive, but blindingly fast F1 legend Gilles Villeneuve who was also incident-prone during his early years in the top flight.

Jody: I don’t think Alonso is as good as some of the press think he is

Chaos at the start of the 1973 British GP

“At the beginning, when you get into F1, you just want to prove that you’re faster than everybody and so that’s what you do. And then you realise you don’t win championships like that. You tune yourself and Max is a smart guy. So he’s got it together now and obviously got the car at the moment to do it,” explained 73-year-old Scheckter.

As for Alonso, Scheckter had a surprising observation: “Fernando’s obviously very good. I didn’t like some of the stuff he did in his early career. I didn’t like it very much at all, actually.

“But he’s good, he’s aggressive. I don’t think he’s as good as some of the press think he is. But he’s doing a good job now, he’s doing a great job,” acknowledged Scheckter.

While the ten-time Grand Prix winner continues to enjoy and follow F1, Scheckter has a complaint: “One thing that frustrates me about are these penalties that they mean they have to go back on the grid, and if the gearbox goes, it just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

“It spoils the spectacle of the racing, you want to see people racing on the track. If he breaks down in practice or qualifying he can’t get back up to race. Why? Everybody wants to see them racing side by side. Just doesn’t make any sense from a spectator’s point of view that I can see,” added Scheckter.