Prost passes the torch: A meeting of legends in Abu Dhabi

Formula 1 legend Alain Prost is gearing up to welcome Max Verstappen, the sport’s sensational Dutchman, into a “very exclusive club” after his record-breaking season.

Verstappen, always playing down his Red-Bull-in-a-China-shop crusade through the record books, had a glimmer in his eye when in Mexico he pondered his next 2023 race victory perhaps this weekend in Brazil. “Seventeen? Nineteen? I don’t know.” The 26-year-old phenom had just clinched his sixteenth win of the 2023 season, breaking his own record.

Team advisor Dr. Helmut Marko is placing his bets on his protege. “At the beginning of the year we wouldn’t have thought any of this was possible,” he shared with Bild newspaper. “But there are still three races left so why not?”

Sunday’s triumph in Mexico was not just another win for Verstappen; it was the occasion that saw him tying with the legendary Alain Prost’s 51 career Formula 1 victories. “Only five people have this number of victories,” Prost declared with pride and reverence, speaking to French sports daily L’Equipe. “Five in the entire history of F1. I am not ashamed to say that I am proud to be in this hall of fame.”

With the season finale in Abu Dhabi now looming on the horizon and two other races still to go in 2023 before that, Verstappen is clearly inching closer to also matching and surpassing earlier Red Bull phenom Sebastian Vettel’s 53 career wins. Prost, now 68 and retired since 1993, is ready to personally welcome Verstappen into this prestigious circle of champions. “I will go to Abu Dhabi and I will certainly congratulate him there,” he announced. “I will tell him that he has joined a very exclusive club and that this is an achievement in itself. I will also tell him that he is a driver that I respect for his determination and talent. And finally, that I am neither jealous nor sad when I am beaten by an athlete of his calibre.”

And as the world looks ahead to 2024, the possibility of Verstappen claiming his fourth consecutive drivers’ world champion title looms large – a feat that would place him at tye-level with both Prost and Vettel. “Max is still in the making,” Prost declared.

But beyond the immediate horizon, the grand achievements of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton – with their staggering 91 and 103 victories respectively – are clearly not out of reach for Verstappen, whose current Red Bull contract runs through 2028. “My story is over,” Prost acknowledged, “but it was beautiful and now Max’s story is just as beautiful, in its own way.”

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