(L to R): Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monza, 2023

Verstappen ‘probably the best ever’ due to simulator practice – Berger

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In the round-up: Max Verstappen has raised the bar for Formula 1 drivers by using simulators to perfect his racecraft, former grand prix driver Gerhard Berger believes.

In brief

Verstappen “probably the best” – Berger

Berger, who shared teams with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell during a career in which he won 10 grands prix, says Verstappen should be considered the greatest of all time.

“Senna and [Michael] Schumacher benefited from racing karts from an early age and doing nothing else in life other than racing,” said the former Ferrari and McLaren racer told Auto Motor und Sport. “This applies to all drivers today.

“But Verstappen still drives virtual races on the simulator in his free time. Sometimes three a day. So he is always busy with this topic. He thinks through where you can overtake and where you can’t. Neither Senna, Schumacher nor [Lewis] Hamilton had this tool.

“It’s just noticeable 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. That’s why Max Verstappen is probably the best we’ve ever seen in Formula 1.”

Ferrari pair concluded Pirelli test

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr concluded a two-day tyre test for Pirelli at the Circuit de Catalunya yesterday. Their work was focused on developing rubber for the 2025 season “with the aim of reducing overheating”, according to Pirelli.

Sainz logged 90 laps, Leclerc 72, the latter setting a best time of 1’15.068 to his team mate’s 1’15.802. Between them they covered 1,400 kilometres of running in last year’s SF-23 at the current Spanish Grand Prix venue. Ferrari will continue running at the track tomorrow with a 2022-specification SF-22.

Capito moves into Nitrocross

Former Williams team principal Jost Capito has joined the electric rallycross series Nitrocross as a senior advisor. Capito, who also previously headed up Volkswagen successful World Rally Championship team, said “our collective vision is to not only push the boundaries of motorsports but also inspire a new era of competition and innovation.”

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Comment of the day

Not everyone is pleased Williams kept their name after the founding family sold up:

Once Williams was sold they should have just renamed it – Dorilton. A capital investment company doesn’t have a soul, family heritage or passion for F1 it’s just an investment – and it’s the complete opposite of what the Williams name stands for.
PacificPR (@Streydt)

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Happy birthday to Sharan!

On this day in motorsport

  • Born 70 years ago today: Future Le Mans 24 Hours winner and Formula 1 driver Mauro Baldi

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27 comments on “Verstappen ‘probably the best ever’ due to simulator practice – Berger”

  1. Verstappen’s got simulator , but drivers before him had much more real world practise (before it got extremely limited, to official practise and test sessions only). They would do thousands of laps in their real F1 cars, especially those driving for bigger teams (a la Ferrari). Sure, modern drivers have many advantages and times are different; still I’m not sure that Michael Schumacher would trade all those thousands and thousands of laps he could do pre-season and mid-season for a modern simulator. I suppose a simulator is more useful for pre-race preparation and setup building, but as for practising skills…

    1. 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.

      You don’t get that by doing thousands of testing laps Dex…

      1. I agree his virtual racing could make all the difference because he keep getting trained. He keeps getting into situations with other cars that are different every time. Over and over and over. There is little substitute for that. And he needs it as he now has stellar material and doesn’t find himself in the pack too often anymore.

        All too many times we have seen champions of the past kind of losing their wheel to wheel sharpness as a result of leading from the front for a too long period of time once they get the stellar material to do so. After a periode of dominance when they are being thrown back in the pack they appear to be rusty at wheel to wheel, not positioning the car right, coming across as entitled etc.

        We are yet to see whether this will also happen to Max once his rocket ship days are over. But I got a feeling he will still be challenging and sharp because he simply spends more time getting into situations you can learn from.

        1. he simply spends more time getting into situations you can learn from.

          True enough, but these drivers have all done years and years of racing. There aren’t many situations they haven’t yet been in, because there just aren’t that many ways to approach a corner.

          The main benefit is probably staying in the rhythm. Drivers who’ve been out of the sport for a bit for whatever reason always look a bit sluggish the first few outings.

    2. Those testing laps were more for the engineering and developers than for the drivers so the car would get better. I think if a simulator was avaible Michel would use that also. There is a difference in testing or racing.

    3. Testing was mindblowingly boring for the drivers. They all hated it. Except maybe Michael that was king of testing and would even fly back to Fiorano between practice sessions on thursday and saturday during the Monaco weekend. But other than that, even the engineers said that much testing was absolutely pointless.

      I don’t think virtual racing necesarily translates to real world racing in a sense. I also race on iRacing (far less sucessfully than Max ofc) and really, really top drivers “exploit” the physics of the game to an extent that it stops being realistic, I assume. Things like dropping the tyres on the grass to cool them or whatever… for them it’s about maximising whatever the software allows, which you can’t do in real life. Tho maybe it keeps him sharp in terms of the competition.

      1. And nobody was as good as Schumacher. You just answered why ;)

      2. @fer-no65 I was playing Assetto Corsa recently and tinkering with the setup, I ended up with a car very “On the nose” i.e. very twitchy and easy to spin but faster through high speed corners but the difference changing the setup made was incredible (2s around laguna Seca, still slower than alot of drivers!). I as reminded of the interview with Alex Albon when he was asked about Max and his driving style and how he would set the car up “On the nose” which was very difficult to copy and also I remember one of Schumacher’s mechanics mentioning how “on the edge” Schumacher’s car was. It seems that Schumacher would tweak the setup through practice and often go off the circuit trying to find the limit whereas Max can perfect this “On the edge” setup in a simulator and can run experiments on each corner thousands of times, this improves general setup and your style simultaneously and could as the article above suggests produce a driver operating at a different level.
        I found it fascinating to watch all the “new batch” of F1 drivers competing in the F1 game over the pandemic downtime, as you’d expect they were all up to speed really quickly and were doing times very close to the best ESports times very quickly, that requires an understanding of how to manipulate the setup and adapt to a very different driving style. I do think all the new drivers benefit from simulator work and even home simulators etc. It’s true they sometimes only learn how to cheat the physics of the game but trialing alternative setups over thousands of hours has to have benefits in real world. I’ve thought for a while that the new batch of top level F1 drivers are probably the best drivers in the history of the sport. Just like olympic athletes that have access to new training regimes, diet etc. and new world records get broken every year.

    4. still I’m not sure that Michael Schumacher would trade all those thousands and thousands of laps

      I think it was MS who used to get travel sick in a simulator. I may have got the name wrong, but regardless, there are some drivers who enjoy simulators and some who hate them. Modern simulators are a world away from the sims that people had 20 years ago, more realistic image rendering, some degree of mechanical feedback through the steering wheel and seat, etc, so I think the value of simulator time to drivers has probably changed over the years. Still, if they were that good, you’d wonder why it takes drivers time to get back up to speed if they’ve been out of racing for a season, or even for just a few races due to injury. If simulators were as good as track time, returning drivers would spend a month in a simulator during the off season and hit the ground running.

  2. some racing fan
    31st January 2024, 6:13

    1000 percent agree with the COTD.

    Also Verstappen is not a greater driver than Fangio, Senna, Clark, Prost and Schumacher were. It’s too early to judge with him.

    1. Agree. I feel discussions about “the greatest ever driver” are pretty pointless in motor sport where differences in cars account for such a massive portion of performance. Great drivers can turn a very good car into a great car, but it doesn’t matter how great the driver is if the car is a bit of a dog. To me, Verstappen’s quite extraordinary last few seasons highlights the problem with the current F1 rules, that we have a reg change, one team gets it right first time, and the budget rules and testing rules make it near impossible for other teams to catch up. In the Button/Brawn season, the Brawn car had a massive advantage at the start of the season, and it took other teams approximately half a season to catch up. With the current cars, we are two seasons in and still thinking RB will be miles ahead in 2024.

  3. I wonder what CotD’s view is on Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, and (Aston) Martin; all now part of faceless conglomerates, stone cold stock exchange listings, and/or private investors.
    I guess Haas is the only family heritage and passion driven business left. Passion which got us Rich Energy, Uralkali, and others into F1.

    1. Haas started Haas as a marketing vehicle for his machining company.
      Haas is just as cold and calculating.

      And you forget Renault/Alpine that has had absolutely no ambition to compete for wins or championships and the primary goal of its F1 team is to sell more cars.

      1. I guess the sarcasm wasn’t picked up by everybody ;)

        1. No emojis, no sarcasm. Its a rule as old as the internet.

    2. Well I guess you are right in a way, but I do feel it’s a bit different for a lot of these teams – most of those buy-ins were a more gradual evolution over a longer stretch of time and with that they became more part of a team (I am under no illusion that their main reason is the same as that of Dorilton). Dorilton just bought the complete Williams team and are using the name and brand as if it’s their own heritage and achievements – I thought it was irking to see the celebrations for the 600th race or the use of the logo on the liveries – they are creating a false sentiment. As much as I dislike the Visa Cash-App RB or Stake Kick team Sauber names – I still much prefer it over the way Dorilton is using the Williams name.

  4. Few drivers are as dedicated to their sport as Max.
    Some will play other sports like golf, others will do hobby’s like fashion, music or partying.

    Max is always racing.

  5. “It’s just noticeable that Max is always in the right place. At the start, in the first corner, in a duel.”

    Always, huh? Perfect… really? That must be why he was penalized not two races ago for barging another driver off track to force himself through.

    Verstappen is a great driver. He’s also not perfect. Nobody is.

    The need for every ‘driver of the day’ to instantly be labelled the best ever is a bit weary.

    1. I do think there was no need for Berger to lower himself with the sad greatest ever talk but he is right in respect that modern simulators are changing the way drivers go about the sport. Driving simulators against other drivers of high skill levels will absolutely provide you more experience than was ever possible before and there is no penalty for mistakes in the simulator so you have the opportunity to acquire experience that otherwise would take years of real life racing. Of course it cannot give you the real world consequence and fear factor but in terms of muscle memory it’s a great tool that all future F1 drivers will leverage like Verstappen and Norris do.

      I think to a certain extent we also see how Mercedes have used simulator work to really turn around their setups overnight at races last year. So on top of being used as a tool by drivers to improve their skillset it is becoming vital now for teams in preparing setups for race weekends and also fine tuning throughout the event. This is one of the reasons incidentally why I think the richest teams are so keen to reduce the amount of practice time as rather than hinder them it will give them a huge advantage as they’ll have simulations that mean they’re better prepared than teams lower on the grid.

    2. @MichaelN:
      I agree with the sentiment of your comment. But with the example you picked, I can also flip your first point around. With how things unfolded, could you argue he was not in the correct place? And I mean of course from only just his viewpoint and regarding his race. Sure the outcome was a penalty and I you’d ask him I’m also sure he would have wanted the move to be exactly the same except stay within the line.. I’d argue it was actually the right thing to do for him.

    3. Always, huh? Perfect… really? That must be why he was penalized not two races ago for barging another driver off track to force himself through.

      Except that his mistake was not in his positioning, but in a misjudging of the grip and thus braking point. And you can argue that even if he had known the grip level, taking the lead and getting the penalty was at least equal to giving up the position.

      So was it even an error?

  6. Lewis Hamilton did have this ‘tool’. Live For Speed was released in 2002, and still holds up today. You can watch Bottas playing it in 2007 – https://youtu.be/pbklUzptfTk?si=O9M69LGGZTUAvaSU – and was pretty damn good. His account was called ‘Vale’. You can see his states here – https://www.lfs.net/profile/109222 . It wasn’t uncommon to bump into F3 drivers online . I was playing it back then and you could smash 10 races a night, join top level leagues. Not really much different than today. V1 Championship was 2008 and very very competitive. The aim was to get someone in a real car. So Berger isn’t exactly correct on that front.

    So Max isn’t unique really in the sense of playing sims, it’s the fact how involved he is now he is racing in F1. That is unique, but whether that’s the defining factor is hard to say.

  7. Hamilton doesnt like doing simulator work and doesnt do much of it.

    1. and it shows

  8. It’s just noticeable 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. That’s why Max Verstappen is probably the best we’ve ever seen in Formula 1.

    That’s a really good point about Verstappen’s positioning on track, always seeming to be in the right place. Obviously that alone isn’t enough to be a great driver, less still the ‘best’, but it feels intuitively true and probably is a lot down to sims.

  9. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    31st January 2024, 18:37

    I’ve always thought compared to other sports that racing drivers don’t get much time to perfect their craft. Darts, snooker, football, rugby (you name it) practice for hours and hours every day to get to the top of their game. If they don’t, they get left behind. Max is the first driver to bring that level of application to the sport.

  10. Racing sims aren’t all they’re cracked up to be as Berger’s implying, nor are they new (in my experience driving a sim is incomparable to driving an actual racing car). While I don’t pretend Vestappen’s bad by any stretch of the imagination (he’s certainly one of the best on the current grid) he’s not this ‘greatest of all time’ he’s being made out to be.

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