Could Verstappen Really beat Mercedes and Ricciardo in 2017?

Max Verstappen believes that he is a complete enough driver already to challenge for the title in 2017, should the package that Red Bull roll out for 2017 be of front-running quality.

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 31: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – JULY 31: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The young Dutchman has been nothing short of a sensation this season. His driving has come under vast praise and criticism, but his potential is as of yet uncapped. He asserted his abilities on his debut with Red Bull with a memorable win, his only top-spot showing to date. But Verstappen believes there is much more to look forward to in the future and is optimistic that he will have the correct mentality should a title challenge be on the cards. He said,

“Your mind set completely changes once you have that championship-winning car.

[If you have that car] you don’t need to go at 105 percent all the time. You can ease off a bit, take a second instead of pushing for first. While I know you always try to get the best possible result, because maybe that’s the best possible chance of getting a win, sometimes it can go to the wrong side and then people think that you are too aggressive. But I think your whole mind set just completely changes.

– Max Verstappen

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 30:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing in their lederhosen themed race suits during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 30, 2016 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – JUNE 30: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing in their lederhosen themed race suits during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 30, 2016 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There will be very strong competition in Daniel Ricciardo, who has finished ahead of Verstappen eight times out of a possible thirteen in which both drivers have finished the race. The thing that’s likable about Verstappen and Ricciardo is their reluctance to allow the nature of the contest on-track to ruin the atmosphere of the team. This is something that the Dutch driver isn’t expecting to change with the added pressure. He said,

 “At Toro Rosso you want to prove yourself to get the jump to the big team. So that’s why things can be a bit more tense in general.

Once you get the jump to the big team, you’re there, you know. And then, from there on you start working on getting good results and fight for victories or podiums. I think that’s why that makes it a little more more relaxed.”

– Max Verstappen

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 15:  Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates his first F1 win on the podium during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 15, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – MAY 15: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates his first F1 win on the podium during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 15, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Verstappen currently sits 6th in the standings – a single point behind Kimi Raikkonen and 10-points adrift of the other Ferrari of his growing rival Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull driver will expect to finish the season in 4th and it’s feasible he will carry on the form he’s shown in recent races and do so.