Max Verstappen told to ‘step on the gas’ to earn Michael Schumacher comparison

Verstappen wins 2021 F1 world championship

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Gerhard Berger has urged Max Verstappen to avoid letting up over the next few years in order to establish himself as a Formula One legend alongside the likes of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. Verstappen clinched his maiden Drivers’ Championship triumph earlier this month in dramatic circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the 24-year-old passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to claim the end-of-season honours.

Verstappen reaped the rewards of FIA race director Michael Masi’s decision to allow the five lapped cars between the two leaders to unlap themselves under the safety car late on.

Masi initially declared that no drivers would be allowed to overtake the safety car before changing his mind just moments before the green flags were waved for the one-lap shootout that followed.

This allowed Verstappen, who was on much fresher tyres than Hamilton, to close up and overtake his Mercedes rival on the final lap to clinch the title at the end of an extraordinary contest at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The Dutchman was still a worthy champion in spite of the controversial ending to this year’s title decider and will be desperate to follow up by holding his rival at arm’s length once again next year.

Berger, who drove for Benetton, Ferrari and McLaren during his time in F1, has suggested that Verstappen could soon be good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Schumacher if he manages to keep up the good work.

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“He has to step on the gas a bit more to work his way up into that league,” Berger told Servus TV.

“But in terms of talent, of course, he is carved out of that exact stone. He’s an extraordinary racing driver.

“You’ve already seen that in Formula Three. I’ve already watched him in karting, the guy’s got it and he will be even bigger than he already is.

“He’s a likeable guy, he’s down to earth, he’s cool. I think he’s doing very well, he’s a worthy world champion.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Verstappen will be able to see off the challenge of Hamilton once again next season, with proceedings set to get underway at the Bahrain Grand Prix in March of next year.

One-time champion Damon Hill recently urged both drivers to avoid letting their on-track rivalry turn into hatred when their hostilities are renewed, comparing the situation to his own battle with Schumacher.

“I always felt with Michael that he never thought I was a worthy opponent,” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.

“Then once I beat him in the wet and I think he was slightly impressed by that so I got the sense that, at least on that occasion, [I was worthy] and he came and congratulated me after that race as well.

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“Let’s have another bash next year and put this behind us, not let it fester.

“It would be awful if it was a festering resentment that sometimes happens with other drivers.

“Like between [Ayrton] Senna and [Alain] Prost it got very ugly and lasted for quite a while.”

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