Kurt Verlin
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Max Verstappen Wins F1’s “Best Overtake of the Year” Award

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Max Verstappen accepts award

Over a year ago, I wrote about how bringing 17-year old Max Verstappen into Formula 1 had turned out to be a great idea, and how he had quickly dispelled doubts about the potential risks of bringing such a young driver into the pinnacle of single-seater motorsports.

Since then, he has done nothing but reaffirm my opinion. Though he hasn’t always been perfect, and some of his defensive moves were highly controversial, few would disagree that Verstappen has shown to be a once-in-a-generation talent, one that always finds a way to make every race more exciting to watch, and who exudes remarkable confidence both on and off the track.

It should probably come as no surprise, then, that Verstappen was responsible for two of the eight nominated overtakes for F1’s Best Overtake of 2016 awards, and that by process of elimination, both of his overtakes progressed to the final. Both also featured Nico Rosberg, the 2016 champion, as the unfortunate victim of Verstappen’s driving genius, and both took place in the rain at circuits notorious for it—Silverstone in the UK and Interlagos in Brazil.

The overtake that eventually won out was the one in Brazil, a race that would have been infinitely less interesting to watch had Verstappen not been there to bewilder spectators lap after lap. He was constantly weaving about the track behind the safety car, getting a feel for the conditions and exploring the areas that had grip and those that didn’t, and when the safety car retreated to the pits, he at times looked as though he were the only driver on wet tires while everyone else was on slicks.

The winning overtake may not seem all that extraordinary to someone who rarely watches the sport, so I’ll put it this way: not only did Verstappen overtake a Mercedes, by far the most dominant car of the hybrid turbo era, and not only did he do so on the outside of the corner, where it is traditionally more difficult to pull off overtakes—he also did it in weather conditions so poor that the race had been stopped several times and nearly all of the world-class drivers on the grid were struggling to keep their wheels pointed straight. Oh, and he’s just 19 years old!