Max Verstappen is showing his rivals in F1 “how racing should be”, according to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.
The 19-year-old has made a big impact since making his debut for Toro Rosso at the start of the 2015 season, being promoted to Red Bull this year and winning in Barcelona.
Often fighting with Mercedes or Ferrari at the front of the field, Verstappen’s driving has come under scrutiny and the FIA clarified regulations to outlaw moving under braking after some of the Dutch driver’s defensive manoeuvres.
However, Marko believes Verstappen is showing the current drivers how racing used to be in the past, comparing his arrival in the sport to the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
“What I see is that he brings a completely new approach to the ‘reigning establishment’!” Marko told the official F1 website. “He shows them again how racing should be – how it was in the past.
“I remember when guys like Senna and Schumacher came, they also had a different approach and were a shock awakening for the establishment of their time. They also were criticised massively.
“Now we have a young, hungry, sexy young driver, with a devil-may-care attitude about the spoils of former champions – whether they have won once, twice, three times or even four times.”
And Marko says the comparisons with the likes of Senna also stretch to Verstappen’s wet weather skills after his performance in Brazil.
“I saw a similar drive from Max at the Norisring in F3 some years ago: again in a league of his own – with a line of his own. In F1 I would compare his Brazil ride to Senna at Donington.”
Since Rosberg announced his retirement in Vienna on Friday, there has been a growing list of candidates mentioned as potential team-mate to Lewis Hamilton next year.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has declared that the team is looking at “all the options”, which range from promoting a young driver like Pascal Wehrlein to buying out the contract of one of the top drivers, all of whom are signed for 2017.
“We have lost a champion, the best driver of 2016,” Lauda, who serves as Mercedes non-executive chairman, is quoted as saying to Gazzetta dello Sport. “It won’t be easy to replace him because all the drivers of a certain standard have contracts with other teams.
“Taking a young driver is a risk, we don’t know if he will be strong. Practically half of the grid have offered themselves.”
Never afraid to speak his mind, Lauda also admitted that he and several team members took Rosberg’s decision “badly”.
“I didn’t expect it, nobody in Mercedes imagined that he had had enough,” the former triple world champion added.
“At first I didn’t believe it. ‘Nico, what you told us, are you kidding by any chance? It’s a joke?’ But he said it was all true. Quite incredible.
“Rosberg’s decision has left us disorientated and unprepared, and all those who contributed to Nico winning the world title took it very badly.”
The news was first reported in French media on Thursday evening, with sports daily L’Equipe saying Circuit Paul Ricard has agreed on a five-year deal to welcome the sport back to France following a ten-year absence.
The event will receive support from the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur [PACA], the city of Toulon, the département of Var and the FFSA [French motorsport federation], with an official announcement and more details expected during a press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon in Paris.
Asked by UK news agency Reuters about France coming back to the F1 programme, Ecclestone replied: “Yes, I think it will happen”
The 86-year-old added that the event is likely to take place in late July, “more or less sort of the German date, probably”, while stories in the French press had mentioned a late August or early September slot.
Also known as Le Castellet, Paul Ricard has undergone massive renovation works since it last hosted F1 in 1990, and was used for a Pirelli wet-weather tyre test as recently as in early 2016.
Despite Ecclestone’s family trust owning the circuit, the F1 CEO rules out them being involved in organising and promoting the returning French GP.
“It’s nothing to do with them at all. I think they are renting it to the people that are going to be the promoters.”
France last hosted a Formula One grand prix at Magny-Cours in 2008, with Felipe Massa winning the race for Ferrari.