Verstappen was promoted to the Red Bull senior team after a season at the junior Toro Rosso squad in early 2016, replacing Daniil Kvyat four races into the season.
He duly won on debut in that year’s Spanish Grand Prix, becoming F1’s youngest-ever victor at the age of 18 years and 227 days, but frequently came in for criticism from rivals for his aggressive on-track moves – prompting the late F1 race director Charlie Whiting to warn that he could “get a bad name for himself” after the Belgian Grand Prix.
Verstappen was involved in a spate of incidents during the early stages of the 2018 season, including on-track clashes with Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain and Sebastian Vettel in China.
He then paid a heavy price for a slight mistake in practice at Monaco, forcing him to start from the back as Ricciardo enjoyed a clear run to victory.
That prompted a change in Verstappen’s approach, and he has since racked up 12 victories to lead Red Bull’s world championship challenge in 2021 – although his points advantage was reduced to eight after Hamilton survived their lap one clash in the British Grand Prix to win.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W12
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Speaking prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix, McLaren driver Ricciardo said that Verstappen had matured in his approach and learned to remove the mistakes that had blighted his early career.
“I think Max was under a bit of let’s say pressure in his first couple of years of F1 with some of the moves and that,” said Ricciardo.
“I definitely think he’s ironed a lot of that out and I think he’s just matured as a driver.
“For sure he’ll always race hard. But, I mean, we were team-mates [for] three years [and] we came together twice, so that’s pretty low numbers, I think.”
Speaking after the British Grand Prix clash between the two title rivals, Ricciardo said that Hamilton had gone “in too hot for the given level of grip”, but clarified in Hungary that he believed the accident was a racing incident.
“They’ve been racing hard all year so I’ve put it down, generally to a racing incident,” he said.
“I think the main thing was that Max, let’s say, got away safely.
“Obviously for his health and well being, it’s great and also for the sake of the championship.”