David Coulthard believes Max Verstappen is ‘more than ready’ to wrestle the world championship from Lewis Hamilton as the Formula One legend claimed that only ‘the racing Gods’ can deny the Red Bull star glory this season.
After two races Verstappen and Red Bull have showcased the necessary pace to truly challenge Hamilton and Mercedes this campaign, with the Dutchman clinching victory at Imola to move just a point behind the Brit in the drivers’ standings.
Hamilton has romped to successive world championships, breaking all manner of records along the way, and now fans are excited at the prospect of the 36-year-old facing a real test over the course of a 23-race campaign.
David Coulthard says ‘only the racing Gods’ can stop Max Verstappen from winning the title
Verstappen, 23, has shown frightening pace over two races and won in Imola last time out
And heading into this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, David Coulthard believes that Verstappen and Red Bull are ‘ready’ to carry out a championship-winning campaign.
‘They are the real deal in terms of outright pace,’ Heineken ambassador Coulthard told Sportsmail at the launch of the Pit Wall Bar. ‘Red Bull have consistently delivered a competitive car.
‘There’s no question if you can deliver the lap time in qualifying and then you don’t have reliability issues in the race – that’s where Mercedes have been so strong over the last several years, they have had qualifying pace and they have had unbelievable reliability.
Coulthard says Verstappen and Red Bull are equipped to go all the way and win the title
The pace of Verstappen poses a real challenge to seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton
‘So the only thing that I think can stand in the way of Max and Red Bull Racing really taking this championship is the racing Gods maybe getting involved in a few things with reliability because he is definitely experienced enough, he is definitely mature enough, which at 23 seems incredible but he is ready. He is more than ready.’
Having faced little competition over the last four seasons, Coulthard believes the challenge of Verstappen will bring the best out of the seven-time world champion, insisting that this battle will help cement the Briton’s legacy.
‘I think Lewis has been well served during his career to have, more often than not, great cars. So I don’t think at any point can he go “life isn’t fair, why isn’t my car the fastest”. He has had a lot of that. I think he would never complain about that.
But Coulthard believes Hamilton will ‘relish’ the test and it will further cement his legacy
Verstappen pushes a cake into Coulthard’s face to celebrate his 50th birthday in Bahrain
‘I think that he genuinely relishes the challenge. He generally finds another gear when he’s really pushed. That’s great for his legacy, that’s great for his motivation and that’s great for Formula One fans.’
Hamilton and Verstappen have already been engaged in an engrossing battle in Bahrain, while the Dutchman got the better of the Mercedes star in Imola – where the cars made slight contact as the Red Bull star pipped Hamilton from the start.
And Coulthard is hoping for more fireworks in what he believes could be a ‘classic season’.
‘We’ve seen two great races, hopefully we will have a third and at some point those guys are going to come to blows,’ he added.
Coulthard hopes that the pair will come to blows over the remaining 21 races this campaign
‘There was a little bit of contact at the first corner in Imola, I think anyone who has followed Formula One for a long time will remember Prost and Senna coming together at Suzuka twice and all these other situations.
‘I’m not, of course, advocating contact between two race cars but God does it give us some memorable moments. I think it has got all the hallmarks of a classic season.’
Away from the battle at the front of the grid, Coulthard reflected that Williams’ George Russell has laid down a marker to take Valtteri Bottas’ seat at Mercedes next season following their heated exchange in Imola after they crashed.
‘I think George is the real deal. He’s great on track, great off track. What he experienced in Imola was the growing pains of going from being a young man into a more experienced man.
Coulthard added that George Russell (L) has thrown down the gauntlet to Valtteri Bottas (R)
The pundit said that Bottas will be fully aware now that Russell wants his seat next season
‘What he did show was his hunger, his passion and I think there’s an underlying… he is looking at Valtteri and going “that’s my seat, I want that seat”. So if Valtteri had any doubts before, he now knows quite clearly that George wants that seat.’
Elsewhere, Coulthard has been left impressed by rookie Yuki Tsunoda, who compared the Japanese sensation’s swearing over the team radio to comedian Billy Connolly.
‘I tell you who has caught my ear, Tsunoda. I have never heard so much swearing on a radio!
‘Having spent quite a bit of time in Japan over the years, and having several Japanese friends, they are normally very polite and very respectful but in the heat of the moment he is like Billy Connolly!’
HEINEKEN’S PIT WALL BAR
Fans have had to watch from afar over the past year, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping spectators away from the action, but Heineken’s Pit Wall Bar has given fans the chance to take in all the action in an authentic surrounding.
‘In the absence of fans being able to get to the race track and experience those moments, I spent quite a bit of time at the Pit Wall Bar in Imola with Max and Checo… and I want one!’ Coulthard said.
Imitating the Red Bull Racing Honda pit wall, fans at home will be able to win the next best thing to being trackside at the Formula 1. However, unlike the pit walls you see at the circuit on race day, this version comes complete with its own bar – with a Heineken® 0.0 blade, glassware and coasters built in.
This unique at-home experience will be available for fans across the globe to win in their living rooms, via a competition on F1.com, with competitions running across the 2021 season.
Click HERE to find out how you can win.
Coulthard was speaking at the launch of the Heineken Pit Wall Bar this week (pictured with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez)
The Pit Wall Bar brings fans closer to the action while the races are behind closed doors