Max Verstappen has all the ingredients, popularity and speed, to become Formula 1's new Ayrton Senna according to former F1 racer Michael Bleekemolen.
The Dutchman's raw talent and impressive speed has seen him compared to the Brazilian great in the past. Verstappen has taken himself to another level this season and is currently leading Lewis Hamilton by 32 points in the Drivers' Championship.
Verstappen's impact on the sport is not only on the track, but off it too. The 23-year-old has a massive fan following at almost every track he visits, especially the European venues that are close to his country of birth, the Netherlands.
Stands packed with fans clad in orange has now become customary at race tracks around the world. Bleekemolen feels that his growing achievements on the track and his popularity off it are slowly seeing him enjoy the same adoration Senna did during his years in the sport.
"He is enormously favoured [popular]. It is not normal; you can see that in the world press," Bleekemolen told Dutch publication De Telegraaf. "I think Max will become a kind of Senna in time."
"Of course, he's been getting a lot of attention for years. The Brazilian was also like that: invincible, interesting and colourful."
Before 2021, Verstappen had never been seriously involved in a title fight. The Red Bull Racing driver is the current favourite to win the 2021 Drivers' title and could deny rival Hamilton his eighth world title.
Verstappen has been aided by his team, who have developed a car that is marginally superior to their rivals Mercedes. Unlike in previous years, the Austrian team is now able to challenge the all-conquering Mercedes team at all tracks even the ones the Silver Arrows have dominated in recent years.
Moreover, Bleekemolen says that one of the key factors that is helping Verstappen this season is his ability to avoid making mistakes. It is something the Dutchman has been criticised for in the past, when he failed to take his opportunities.
"I was thinking about it; we don't really catch him making mistakes anymore. Those days are over. It's all a different level he is at now," he added.