‘Max is like Kimi – straightforward, talented, focused and indifferent’ – Todt

2021 F1 season

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FIA president Jean Todt says Max Verstappen has many similar qualities to his former driver Kimi Raikkonen.

Speaking to RaceFans as he prepares to conclude his final term as president, Todt gave his views on Verstappen and his championship contender Lewis Hamilton.

“Max is a bit like Kimi,” said Todt of the driver who can clinch the championship at the next race. “Very straightforward, very talented and they have limited interest and they focus on it. Indifferent.”

Verstappen could end Hamilton’s four-year run of consecutive championships. The Mercedes driver has become an increasingly outspoken supporter of diversity and human rights, which has brought him into conflict with the FIA at times. Last year the sport revised its rules on podium ceremonies after Hamilton wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor” at the Tuscan Grand Prix.

Verstappen reminds Todt of Raikkonen
“I like Lewis,” said Todt. “Of course I do admire his longevity, of course you know it is true it’s easier when you driving for the best car, best team in the long term.

“But he has the passion. I think the fact the he is engaged is very good. It doesn’t mean that I always agree with the way he is engaging. But he has his beliefs, he expresses his belief, so I do like that, I do respect that.

“Sometimes I feel it could be done in a different way but the fact that he wants to be engaged, he wants to be a player in matters where he feels it does matter, I do respect that.”

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Todt believes the fight between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for this year’s world championship is a result of the largely stable technical rules the sport has had for several years.

“It was not unexpected,” he said. “Clearly the more stability of the rules you have, the less margin of revolution you have, then clearly we could see that the engine suppliers were progressing year after year and then you know that both teams have very talented people to build the chassis.

“We knew that each team had one exceptional driver – it doesn’t mean that the other one is not good, clearly to be in Formula 1 anyway you need to be a good driver, particularly the way to have access to superlicence and all that. But we know also that you have a limited amount of drivers who give the kind of extra talent, extra blessing and if it’s combined with a car we see what we see.”

Having overseen Ferrari’s dominance of the early 2000s, which included taking Michael Schumacher to his seventh drivers’ title – a record Hamilton now shares – Todt isn’t concerned about the F1 records he set being broken.

“It’s good for them,” he said. “At the moment we still have two champions with seven championships. So in a way, a record is always potentially able to be beaten.

“And when I speak in my kind of pride I say. okay, somebody has more wins in Formula 1, but they don’t have some wins in sports cars, they don’t have some wins in rallying, they don’t have some wins in cross-country. So at the moment, still, I have some advantage on the others on that!”

Look out for an in-depth interview with Jean Todt coming soon to RaceFans

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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47 comments on “‘Max is like Kimi – straightforward, talented, focused and indifferent’ – Todt”

  1. I guess he missed the Memo on being a clean and fair racer. Well, whatcha gonna do…

  2. To my belief, that’s an insult for Kimi

    1. Indeed — I can’t think of any Kimi overtakes/defends over the years that would even challenge “tough but fair”, though I’m sure my memory is bad from his peak McLaren years.

      Max’s racecraft is always exploring the the boundaries of “tough and let’s see if the stewards will say something.”

    2. I agree – Kimi is also a clean racer and a respectful person.

    3. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
      26th November 2021, 7:40

      Yes, he shouldn’t have compared him to Kimi, they’re chalk and cheese. Verstappen’s more like Schumacher.

    4. I dont think Kimi cares. Neither does Max

      1. Yep, besides he’s talking about mindset, personality, their approach. Not necessarily how they drive.

  3. Kimi mixed with a little bit of crazy. That’s intended as a compliment.
    The only bit I’m unsure about is indifferent. Difficult to ruffle, definitely. Max often doesn’t seems so much ice cool as glowering, though. Even if he’s well-disciplined and keeps that anger channelled to his driving, most of the time.

    1. Kimi mixed with a bit of Senna or Shumi if your not old enough is i think the best way to disscribe Max.

  4. what a stupid comment but that’s no surprise from Jean “let Michael pass for the championship rubens” todt..

    Kimi is a fair racer and not a win at all costs extremist.

  5. Yeah except Kimi is no cheat. Maxie is the reincarnation of Schumacher or so it appears.

    1. True, verstappen is similar to schumacher in general and I mean that as a compliment since schumacher is my favourite driver.

    2. Lol honestly that exaggerating. Until an Adelaide 94’ or Jerez 97’, then yes. But for now, Max is probably closer to the Montoya’s in terms of aggression

  6. I don’t buy Verstappen’s routine of saying he doesn’t care about winning the title or feigning indifference when he loses. Maybe he thinks he is cold-blooded or maybe it’s a strategy to not show he feels pressure, but his statements don’t match with his aggressive behavior on track. You can hear the tension in the voice when he races, for me that shows someone who cares about winning..

    1. It’s an effective way of dealing with media questions. He makes few mistakes on track (fewer than Hamilton) so what he is saying is not unreasonable.

      1. “He makes few mistakes on track (fewer than Hamilton) so what he is saying is not unreasonable.” I’m glad you have an opinion. Not really.

        Reply moderated
      2. @paeschli – this season, I’d agree with that but not by much, in general Hamilton is definitely more consistent. Plus I think the closer these two are together on track the mistakes are more apparent, more so from Max.

        1. If you think Hamilton is more consistent you probably think of his many mistakes this season.

        2. Hamilton was consistent in the dominantcar when he had no rivals.

    2. @fw11b But Max hasn’t said he doesn’t care about winning the title, has he? I think he has said winning the title won’t change anything for him, and I’m sure he is specific about what he means by that. I think he means that life will go on, and he’ll continue to race his hardest no matter what. And I think he means that there is more to life than F1. But I think for him winning a WDC won’t change him personally, nor his approach to racing. I’m sure he understands though that winning the WDC comes with more promotional work.

      As he has also said, the goal is to win a WDC. Once he does that he will feel less pressure but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to race his heart out each and every race for each and every season of what will likely be a long career in F1. As I said yesterday, I admire Max for not making it about numbers of WDCs. I have never rated drivers, nor ever will, based on their numbers of WDCs and I like that Max considers ‘one’ the main objective. After all, even the drivers who ‘only’ have one WDC are in a very very elite group of drivers globally and historically.

    3. He cares about winning this one.

      Later he might or not care about winning the next one, and so on.

      Lives in the present while many around are speculating & talking about records and stuff like that.

      Great approach!

  7. Indifferent = Unconcerned

    He didn’t seem particularly indifferent at Silverstone!

    Look, Max is his own man and an unbelievably talented driver. I just wish he could separate himself from RB and their neverending flow of negativity.

    1. @sonnycrockett Very much agree with that last couple of sentences. He’s very, very quick and talented, but does just need to calm down a little bit. It does remind me of a younger Lewis in that sense. And I think it reminds Lewis of a younger Lewis as well. He did a very interesting interview with the BBC this week, and one of the most interesting key quotes he says in that is this:

      Look at myself when I was 24, 25. Jeez, the mistakes I was making back then. I had the speed but I was going through a lot of different experiences outside the car and also being in the limelight – the pressures of being at the front. I don’t think I did much right then so I don’t hold that against anybody.

    2. We’ll see next year but atm there’s not a lot of places that allow you to fight mercedes for titles.

  8. Quite an interesting comparison in my opinion. I have a feeling that this season could be for Max what 2003 or 2005 was for Kimi. He’s clearly very, very quick and extremely talented, but let down by unreliability. For Kimi, that was usually the McLaren’s reliability, but for Max it will likely go down more as his reliability. Ok he had Baku (which was unlikely his fault) and Hungary, where I don’t think he can really bear any of the blame, but Monza was definitely on him, as was Brazil (which should, in my opinion, have resulted in a penalty, or an investigation/reprimand at the very least). And then there’s Silverstone. My personal view of the incident is that Max was, under the regulations, technically in the right, and was entitled to turn into the corner, but at the end of the day him turning in instead of yielding, if not illegal, probably cost him at least 18 points that day (at the same time I feel 10 seconds was harsh for Lewis, and 5 would probably sufficed).

    1. Doubt verstappen can be blamed even slightly for any other point loss between those except silverstone. Now for silverstone alone he was absolutely in the right to make the corner, he was ahead, however looking at what hamilton did in brazil, he could’ve yielded even if ahead in order to minimize point loss, however there’s a difference: hamilton was ahead but started the move behind in brazil, and verstappen started the move ahead: it’d have meant yielding a position without fighting, that’s not how you win titles.

    2. Basically.. what you’re saying is Max’s own reliability is the problem.. yet he lost 25 points in Baku, 25 points in Britain and at least 18 points in Hungary through no fault of his own.

      Honestly, he’s lost more points due to bad luck than Lewis has. 68 points lost either through failures or being taken out is harsh. He would have had the title wrapped up that tyre didn’t explode unexpectedly, Lewis didn’t take him out in Britain and Bottas didn’t spearhead in to him at the start.

      Between both the title contenders this year.. I would say lewis has been the less reliable driver. He threw away 18 points in Baku, was terrible in Monaco and didn’t capitalise on his opportunities in Spa, Monza and Hungary.

      1. @todfod – that is pretty harsh.

        Spa as a gp was a lottery infact it was a joke.

        Monza I think he drove well (apart from a poor start in the sprint) up to the point he was driven off track.

        Hungary was unique, but still did well to come back. If he had boxed before lights out he would’ve lost pole position regardless.

        I personally think if Max had better decision making with the wheel to wheel battles with Hamilton he would be a champion now without needing these two races, unless of course Hamilton dnf’s.

        Hamilton I would say has made some uncharacteristic errors this year and didn’t always punish Max with ruthless efficiency but to be fair to Max he hasn’t given that many opportunities.

        1. @icarby

          I don’t think its that harsh. He had the car to put it on pole at Spa.. or at least P2. He might have only lost a few points.. but it was because of his performance and not the car’s. In Hungary, he had a car over a second a lap faster than Fernando, yet it took him 11 laps to get an overtake done. That again cost him the win. In Monza, he was behind Bottas all weekend. He had a poor sprint race and was having an average race before he was taken out. In the last 6 to 7 races, Bottas has looked as good, if not better, than Lewis… which isn’t saying much for Hamilton to be honest.

          Regarding Max. I agree that if he had chosen his battle in Britain in a more intelligent way, he would have had a better points lead. However, you can’t give him too much grief for an incident Lewis got a penalty for. But if it wasn’t for his aggressiveness during wheel to wheel battles, we don’t know if he would have won in Imola and France.

    3. @randommallard Similar to what @esploratore1 has said, since when do drivers who are leading throughout a corner, yield, let alone WDC level drivers? Has Lewis ever? Not sure if you are an LH fan or not, but would you honestly have expected LH to yield at Copse were the situation, their positions, identically reversed? Or are you just using the luxury of hindsight? Of course situation reversed and had Max hit LH’s back tire and sent him into a wall at high speed the LH fandom would have not hesitated with their venomous rebuking of ‘Mad Max.’ They certainly would not have been saying ‘ah well our man LH who was leading at all times at Copse should have yielded. Shame on him for not yielding while leading. We want our Champion LH to yield when leading.’

      Rather, I’m sure we can all recall the numerous times LH has, legally, upon a certain point in a corner, let his opponent decide…’back off, go off, or hit me…it’s up to you because I’m the one in front and I’m stamping my authority on this corner by squeezing you. And you drivers all know that’s how it works.’ That’s all Max was doing at Copse, and everything else is just hindsight. That Max was ‘turning in’ should have been totally expected and predictable, given that there is a good chance LH himself ‘taught’ Max the move by Max observing the likes of LH through his career doing this very thing.

      As well, I recall the commentators such as Damon Hill remarking that from weekend interviews they got the impression that LH had decided he was done ceding positions to Max. That reminded me of the time Nico got tired of being pushed wide by LH. There came a day when he decided to get stubborn…and there was a hit. I think that day came for LH on the Sunday at Copse, having already been put in the position by Max in the Sprint and in some previous races to back off, go off, or hit me…you decide. LH decided he wasn’t going to back off this time, and lucky for him the damage he caused himself was able to be fixed during the red flag incident he himself caused.

  9. “And when I speak in my kind of pride I say. okay, somebody has more wins in Formula 1, but they don’t have some wins in sports cars, they don’t have some wins in rallying, they don’t have some wins in cross-country. So at the moment, still, I have some advantage on the others on that!”

    That was a bit sketchy

    1. Maybe in someway or another he hopes Hamilton won’t brake Schumachers record of 7 championships.

      1. This was my interpretation as well, reading between the lines.

        1. Obviously this year’s is hamilton’s last chance, there’s russell and potentially more competitive cars next year.

  10. This does not go down well amongst the Lewis fans on this site I see ;-). Still I think Todt gets down to the core of the trouble some have with Lewis, him having the superior car ALL the time and being clumsy with the way he wants to bring his messages off track across. And I feel while there is indeed a big similarity between Max and Kimi .. purely in their approach/view of the circus (read: your tabloid antics and shady off track politics don’t mean a to me)

  11. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    26th November 2021, 7:39

    Todt’s been a great president of the FIA, I hope we’ve seen the last of the malevolent interfering political types we used to get. He’s tried to improve the stewarding at F1 events, but it’s clearly not working. It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, not just tinkered with. I hope his successor addresses this problem.

  12. I just hope Kimi does not read this as he will die of being insulted to this extreme.

    1. We’re safe on this one, as I don’t think Kimi reads anything other than his dash.

  13. He’s talented and focussed. He’s neither straightforward not indifferent. As others have said, he’s more like Michael Schumacher than any other drivers.

    1. One day, I’ll learn to check my typing before posting. “… neither straightforward nor* indifferent.”

  14. Verstappen is nothing like Raikkonen. Verstappen lacks the the characteristics that make Raikkonen so likeable. Raikkonen is honest, fair and doesn’t constantly open a can of expletives.

    1. Kimi also doesn’t threaten to headbutt journalists. Which is generally a good thing to look for in a decent human being.

  15. Interesting how so many commenters seem to misinterpret the Todt. He was clearly referring to indifference about things that happen outside of the race, not about wanting to do well in the race, which both Kimi and Max clearly want to do. Kimi’s most outspoken moments tend to be during the race when things are not going well.

    1. They wanted to vent their frustration. Max always delivers for them :)

  16. FIA President: “I like Max. I don’t like Lewis. But I’ll say I ‘respect Lewis’ just so it doesn’t sound so bad.”

    We know, Jean.
    We know.

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