Max Verstappen - Unstoppable on Cover of Time Magazine

F1 News: Berger thinks Verstappen headed to 4th straight title

(GMM) F1 legend Gerhard Berger thinks every sign is pointing towards a fourth-consecutive world championship triumph for Red Bull and Max Verstappen in 2024.

The former driver, who has also held prominent roles at BMW, Toro Rosso and in charge of DTM, is now fully retired from the motor racing scene.

Gerhard Berger
Gerhard Berger

Berger, 64, hopes Formula 1 continues to try to get the balance right between its “huge sport” and “huge show” aspects, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

“The full stands are currently proof that the plan is paying off,” he said, “but the rest suffers from social constraints.”

For instance, he thinks Red Bull has utterly mastered its technological advantages – exemplified by Verstappen not suffering a single car failure in 2023.

“This perfect preparation was unimaginable in my time,” said Berger. He said the heroism of MotoGP riders therefore stands out above F1, where “everything is subordinated to perfection”.

“If a driver sprains his finger, doctors and physios are there straight away and the whole thing is a huge story. But in MotoGP, a rider breaks his shoulder in the morning and is back on the bike in the afternoon.

“In F1, the drivers complain when it’s too hot, like in Qatar.”

But while Verstappen may benefit from Red Bull’s perfectionism, Berger also thinks he’s never seen a driver as perfect as the 26-year-old Dutchman.

“I always used to put Ayrton Senna at the top,” he said, referring to his former McLaren teammate. “He had supernatural abilities in the car.

“But now that we have Max, I doubt whether my old ranking is still valid. Max didn’t make a mistake last season – and Ayrton made them now and then.

“But Verstappen is now doing virtual races on the simulator in his free time – sometimes three a day. He’s always thinking through where you can overtake and where you can’t.

“Neither Senna, Schumacher nor Hamilton had this. And now you notice that Max is always in the right place – at the start, in the first corner, in a duel. I can’t think of anything that could be done better than him,” Berger added.

Berger rates Verstappen over Senna
Berger rates Verstappen over Senna

However, he insists that Verstappen’s run of dominance will eventually end, as Red Bull’s stability is overtaken by a rival making a “radical step” in a bid to succeed.

“Long-term success also does something to the people in a team,” Berger explained. “At some point they are inevitably fed up and look for a new challenge. Or they are poached by other teams.

“Once a team loses two or three key positions, the balance of power shifts.”

But Berger does think Verstappen and Red Bull are currently far enough ahead to stay there in 2024.

“In Formula 1, things always turn out differently than you think,” he warned. “But if Red Bull keeps its team together like this, it will be difficult to catch up with them. It can only work if the others take radical steps.

“I still have the most confidence in Ferrari,” Berger added. “They were better in the second half of last season than the results showed. You also can never underestimate Mercedes and Hamilton, and McLaren is also doing a very good job.”

But even if 2024 is as one-sided as last year was, Berger says F1 will survive.

“We already said in Schumacher’s time that this can’t last long,” he said. “But such dominance also creates a certain enthusiasm, where you get caught up in the perfection.

“Whether the driver doesn’t make any mistakes again, that the team completes every pitstop in the best time, that the car doesn’t stop again or the engine stops again. It’s fascinating and you just want to know whether it will be like that again next time.”

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