LONDON: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner hailed Max Verstappen as “simply untouchable” after securing a record-breaking ninth straight win on Sunday, and even his closest rivals were inclined to agree.
Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who finished second for Aston Martin at Zandvoort in a race that switched from dry to wet and back again, said the 25-year-old Dutch driver was racing at a higher level.
“Sometimes what Max achieves is underestimated,” Alonso, also a two-time Formula One world champion but whose 32nd and most recent win came with Ferrari in 2013, told reporters.
“I think you have to go in in a mood, in a state where you're connected to a car.
“Today I felt like I was at my best and gave 100 percent of my feelings and ability in a race car, but maybe I wasn't at that level in Spa or in Austria or something like that.”
“I think Max is doing that 100 percent more often than us at the moment, than any other driver, that's why he dominates.”
Verstappen has won 11 of the season's 13 races, 20 of the last 24, and the only remaining doubt about his third world title is where he will secure it and how many laps he has left.
Next weekend he can claim his tenth record victory in a row in Monza, Italy.
Red Bull have won it all this year, a streak stretching to 14 in a row when the 2022 season finale in Abu Dhabi is added to the list.
F1 has always had divided opinions on the relative importance of car and driver, with the current Red Bull being the best in the current field by some margin, but Verstappen is aiming for new heights.
Mexico's Sergio Perez, with an identical car, is 138 points adrift of his team-mate after 13 races and missed out on the podium on Sunday due to a speeding violation in the pit lane – the fifth time he has finished outside the top three this season.
Perez is a six-time Grand Prix winner, twice this season, and challenged Verstappen until May when it all fell apart.
Verstappen didn't have everything to his liking on Sunday, falling behind after the rain set in and Perez pitted first, but set out to get back on top with speed and determination.
Horner told reporters winning nine straight wins was “insane” and he was most impressed by how Verstappen dealt with the pressure of racing in front of 100,000 home crowds and expecting nothing less than a dominant performance.
“A lot would have collapsed under that pressure and he kept his composure and delivered as he has done so many times before,” he said.
“I think Max is at a stage in his career where he's just untouchable and I don't think there is a driver on the grid who could achieve what he has achieved in this car.”
“What we're seeing right now is a driver that's part of a generation… he's been in incredible shape for about three years.”
(Additional reporting by Bart H. Meijer, Editing by Ed Osmond)