I'm one of those Americans who watched DTS and eventually got into F1. This is the first actual season where I watched all the races and I'm still learning the sport. I am not emotionally attached to any particular driver.
From an analytical, driving style, perspective why is Max Verstappen considered an equal to Hamilton? From what I can tell these are the facts of this season:
- Hamilton was in an inferior car for the first half of the season.
- While the FIA seemed to make many dubious calls culminating in this recent re-evaluation of the rules, what I feel is safe to say is that while both drivers pushed the rules to the limit Max definitely drove far more aggressively and had Lewis not backed out in many instances they would have collided. In essence it seems to me that Max capitalized on Lewis' lack of willingness to crash out.
- In multiple instances Max was only competitive against Lewis because Checo towed him, blocked Hamilton, or in some other way supported him. In multiple instances Max would not have been able to qualify as well as he did if it weren't for tows from Checo whereas Lewis' support from Bottas was infrequent and lackluster.
- In the final race, Max received massive advantages in the form of multiple yellow flags, Checo blocking Hamilton, and finally the ever so divisive call from Massi that effectively auto-won him the race (I mean, it still requires skill but being on fresh softs vs 40 some odd lap hards is hardly a challenge in the F1 sense of skill).
As a total outsider looking on to a lot of people that seem very emotionally invested, I'm curious from a more analytical, racing, sense how the two are equal? I'm obviously inexperienced but unless I have seriously misunderstood the above it seems like Lewis is an objectively superior driver. If any number of things hadn't gone Max's way in the final race (and before in many ways) he wouldn't have even been in the running against Hamilton. Certainly had Hamilton been in a car as fast as the Red Bull was the first half of the season it doesn't even seem like there would have been much comparison at all.
Does a more experienced eye see something else? The other side of this argument seems to be that Lewis wouldn't have been in contention had Max not had the blowout and the crash at Silverstone, but as someone not much emotionally invested it seems to me that at least in the case of the latter, sure, I'd buy that Lewis was at fault, but Max also decided to drive with incredible aggression and he paid the price for it. I don't have anything against Max's all or nothing driving style but it's hard to view that as superior when compared to taking well calculated risks that pay off over a season. The infamous break test seems the same way - Max had every right to try to game the system and get Lewis to pass right before a DRS zone. He engaged in aggressive driving and that comes with the risk of other drivers not potentially reacting in a predictable way and it lead to a collision. Again, Lewis was partially at fault here but Max made the decision to opt for a hyper aggressive move that could have paid large dividends but also came with increased risk which, per the result, he ultimately misjudged. For this reason it seems to me that while it is interesting to watch, it's hard to say this is objectively superior driving when it frequently leads to failure in the form of mismanaged risk taking.