Ever since claiming the crown from Lewis Hamilton last season, Max Verstappen has not looked back. He's still as hungry, he's still as motivated and his results show that he's not taking his step off the pedal any time soon. Just like last season, this season too has featured Verstappen following simple game plans and maximizing his results in every race.
The Red Bull driver has been performing at a very high level once again but to add to that, he's been very consistent as well. He does not make mistakes often and compared to his contemporaries, he does not have off days either.
When you look at these qualities, it does make you wonder about one crucial question: Is Max Verstappen the best driver on the grid right now? Before answering this question, let's take a look at other top-tier drivers who could lay claim to being the best driver on the grid.
If not Max Verstappen, then who is the best?
Being the most successful driver in the history of F1 does come with a lot of acclaim. Lewis Hamilton has been one of the best drivers in the history of the sport. He still belongs to the elites of the world.
Having said that, the Briton was not the best driver on the grid last season, but Max Verstappen was! This season has not been his best either as George Russell, his new Mercedes teammate, has been very impressive, to say the least (although the 5 consecutive podiums are starting to tilt the balance towards Hamilton).
It's fair to say that Lewis Hamilton not only lost the title to Max Verstappen last season but he's also lost the claim to be the best driver on the F1 grid. Can he reclaim that? Sure, he can, but for that, he will need to bring back the magic he showed during the turbo-hybrid era. For now, though, it's hard to say if Hamilton is overall a better package than Verstappen.
Charles Leclerc has shown this season that he can take on Max Verstappen and even beat him in a similarly paced car. The early season wins from the Ferrari driver were no joke and it might even be fair to say that this season, over one lap, Leclerc is probably the fastest driver out there.
When we talk about Max Verstappen, however, he is not just one of the fastest drivers on the grid. He is also very consistent, does not make mistakes, and his ability to be exceptional in wet weather makes his game well-rounded.
In comparison, the Ferrari driver matches up very well against Verstappen in almost every aspect, but Leclerc is still not the overall package that the Red Bull driver is. There are still small mistakes that Leclerc tends to make and in wet weather conditions, Verstappen has arguably a better track record, especially if we compare the number of wins the latter has accrued in wet weather.
Lando Norris and George Russell
Both Lando Norris and George Russell have been mighty impressive in the last two seasons. While Norris was splendid with his first pole position and multiple podiums, Russell scored a P2 with Williams to book the seat at Mercedes this season. So far this season, Russell has been outscoring Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes (Did experimental setups play a role? Maybe!).
Both have undoubtedly been very impressive, but are they better than Max Verstappen? To be fair, they are still a bit unproven and need more time to fully establish themselves. Could they turn out to be better than Verstappen? Maybe, who knows? For now, though, we'll have to say that Verstappen is performing at a higher level than both, that too at the sharp end of the grid where the pressure is more than at any other position.
Comparing Verstappen to the top-tier talent on the grid right now, it's safe to say that the Red Bull driver is the ultimate benchmark on the grid at the moment. He's fast, he's consistent, and when you compare him to his peers, it is evident that the Dutchman does not make mistakes as often as other drivers.
Verstappen flipped a switch when it came to gaining maturity in his career after the 2018 F1 Monaco GP crash. He has grown in confidence since then and now finds himself at the top of the mountain in F1.