Watson has doubts in McLaren line-up

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Former McLaren driver John Watson believes that his ex-team is lacking the same spark that they had when Lewis Hamilton was racing for them, saying that they appear to have “one and a half drivers.”

Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes at the end of last season, with Sauber’s Sergio Perez stepping up to replace him. However, with just four points from the opening two races, the team appears to be struggling, but Watson believes that Perez is yet to prove that he is ready to race for such an established team.

“McLaren look like they’ve got one and a half drivers,” said Watson. “Signing Perez to replace Hamilton did raise a few eyebrows in the paddock. While I think most would say he’s got a single fast lap in him, his race performances are less of a known quantity.”

Perez claimed three podium finishes in 2012, but he failed to score once his move to McLaren had been confirmed after the Singapore Grand Prix. With just two seasons of grand prix racing under his belt, Perez does not have the experience a top team requires according to Watson.

“The big teams are benefiting from having two drivers with lots of experience and race victories under their belt and I think McLaren, at least in the short term, are losing out.

“I think they have the infrastructure and people there to correct the problem – but first they’ve got to find where the problem actually lies and I don’t know if they even know.”

Perez showed his one lap pace in Malaysia by setting the fastest lap, and he has matched teammate Jenson Button so far this season. However, questions will still hang over Perez’s head until he can claim his first win in Formula One.

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.