Former McLaren and Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger said Max Verstappen “did what he had to do” in order to win his first World title, coming out on top against Lewis Hamilton in one of Formula 1’s most dramatic seasons in 2021.
Verstappen received criticism through the year for his defensive and offensive tactics, which were seen by some as being too aggressive – for example when he appeared to force Hamilton off track while defending against him in Brazil last season.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff claimed his level of defending was “far away” from the standards expected as a Formula 1 driver, and Hamilton was heard over team radio in Saudi Arabia labelling Verstappen as “f****** crazy” after the Red Bull driver ran too deep in the braking zone at Turn 1 while alongside each other, and they almost collided.
But in spite of the criticism levelled at the Red Bull driver, 10-time grand prix winner Berger thinks to win the World Championship, he needed to get his elbows out in combat.
“Last year he had to be aggressive, because Lewis’ car was better,” Berger told reporters, quoted by the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.
“If he had not been so aggressive, he would not have had a chance to win the championship in the end. So he did what he had to do.”
Verstappen has admitted the ‘must win at all costs’ mentality has now left him after winning his title, and there is less pressure upon his shoulders now that his name is etched in the history books as a World Champion.
Berger added that the aggression on display last season from the Dutchman should now be behind him, given that he does not need to take the same kind of approach, and his driving will change as a result.
“If the car is the best this year, then maybe he will adapt and do it in a different way because that aggressiveness is not needed anymore,” he said.
“Because when you drive so aggressively and it doesn’t work, you hit each other or you crash out, that hurts.”
Verstappen is yet to get off the mark this season, after retiring from second place in Bahrain with an engine issue.
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