MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing poses for a photo with trophies during Max & Checo's Homecoming at Red Bull Racing Factory on December 13, 2023 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Bob McCaffrey/Getty Images)

Villeneuve: Max makes the difference, he’s at it 24 hours a day

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing poses for a photo with trophies during Max & Checo's Homecoming at Red Bull Racing Factory on December 13, 2023 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Bob McCaffrey/Getty Images)

Jacques Villeneuve believes that Max Verstappen is so good because it’s a case of: Eat, sleep, race, repeat with Red Bull’s triple Formula 1 World Champion.

At 26 years of age, Verstappen is tearing through the record books at a scorching rate, this past season scoring an unprecedented 19 GP victories on his way to the 2023 F1 World Championship crown, gelling with the remarkable Red Bull RB19 that was only beaten once in 22 GPs last year.

Although Sergio Perez did win with it, twice, early on in the season, after Miami, Max simply got better in the car. At the same time, Checo’s form deteriorated alarmingly and could never really come to grips with the car, relative to his teammate.

In the end, Verstappen scored more than double the points Perez was able to bag, but it was still enough for a first Red Bull one-two in the Driver’s championship standings

We witnessed a record run that saw the Dutchman claim his third F1 World Championship title long before the season ended, while adding an extraordinary 19 victories to his tally that now stands at 54, and the feeling is he is only just getting started.

Villeneuve told PlanetF1 that he does not believe it is so much the car: “Red Bull is not that far ahead. When they got all their poles, it was a tenth, half a tenth… super close. So that’s not domination.

“That’s not the years of Mercedes when they were a second ahead of everyone, and everybody was OK with that, there was not an issue,” explained the 1997 F1 World Champion, referencing the eight years of Mercedes dominance during an eight-year spell in which the team won eight Constructors’  and seven F1 Drivers’ titles.

Max never ‘switches off’ even when he ‘switches off’

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MAY 01: Villeneuve: Max makes the difference, he’s at it 24 hours a day Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing on a racing simulator during the Red Bull Racing Budapest Showrun on May 1, 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images for Red Bull Racing)

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton bagged an extra six WDCs to add to his one won at McLaren in 2008, and Nico Rosberg won one. It was a historic and as yet unmatched streak of dominance never seen before in F1. Usurping Michael Schumacher’s golden era at Ferrari at the turn of this century.

Villeneuve explained: “Max makes the difference because he’s at it 24 hours a day. He’s never getting tired. He gets out for the race car, and he’s still thinking about racing. That’s all that exists. If they all focused like Max, then maybe they would be at Max’s level.”

For 22 weekends F1 witnessed Verstappen executing one of the greatest F1 World Championship campaigns ever over 66 days a year in the limelight of exceptional and nowhere to hide TV coverage. Nothing goes unseen and unheard during those times.

When Max is not travelling, he is at his home in Monaco where the Dutchman engages in his passion for online sim racing, a community that regards him as one of the best drivers in the world of the virtual genre too.

Suggesting indeed that Max never ‘switches off’ even when he ‘switches off’ so to speak. As mentioned above, for Verstappen it’s a case of: Eat, sleep, race, repeat.

And that is part of the incredibly lofty benchmark he has set for his rivals who spent the whole of 2023 chasing and are likely to be doing the same thing from the moment the lights go out for the season opener in Bahrain next year.