Former F1 boss Franz Tost believes that Max Verstappen would be trumped by a prime Sebastian Vettel if they competed in equal machinery, despite the Dutchman paying a heartfelt tribute to the departing AlphaTauri boss after his final race in Abu Dhabi.
Having sewn up his 19th Grand Prix win of the season – a new record – Verstappen went out of his way to include Tost in his final message. The 67-year-old gave Verstappen his big break in F1 at Toro Rosso, which was later rebranded as AlphaTauri.
“Thank you to everyone,” Verstappen said on the Red Bull team radio at Yas Marina Circuit. “And thank you to Franz Tost. He has had lots of us under his wings and it is his last race – so thank you to Franz.”
The touching tribute wasn’t enough to sway Tost in his belief that four-time world champion Vettel, who retired from F1 in 2022, would win more races than Verstappen if they competed against one another in the same car.
When asked who he thought would have the edge in a Grand Prix, the Austrian replied: “Could be Sebastian.” He did, however, admit that Verstappen would have his backing in a one-lap qualifying battle while explaining why he would pick the pair to form his dream F1 partnership.
“[It’s] because of their dedication to the sport and their speed,” Tost said. “They know how to win races and they also bring all the factors with them, what you need to win races. This is, first of all, the talent. You must be highly skilled to drive such a car.
“Second, the passion. Both of them are very passionate. Then they are disciplined. They know exactly when and what they have to do. Discipline is a very, very important factor. And then to study the rivals, to find out where the deficiencies are and to work on this to beat them. These are the factors both of these drivers have, 100 per cent.”
Verstappen’s utterly dominant 2023 season moved him ahead of Vettel in the all-time standings for most Grand Prix wins, despite being born a full decade after the German.
In fact, Verstappen’s total of 54 victories has been surpassed only by Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103). The Red Bull star still has plenty of time to close the gap and mount a challenge for top spot.
While Verstappen is under contract until the end of the 2028 season, he has previously suggested that he plans to draw a line under his F1 career at a younger age than the likes of Hamilton or Fernando Alonso.