Villeneuve finally comes around: 'Verstappen ready for title bid'

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Jacques Villeneuve believes that Max Verstappen has evolved as a driver and individual, achieving a level of maturity that now makes him ready to compete for the world title.

Villeneuve was a harsh critic of the Dutchman during his formative years in F1, slamming the Red Bull driver for his on-track antics, insisting the young charger had entered the sport not sufficiently prepared.

The outspoken Canadian also lambasted Verstappen last year following a string of poor performances.

The 1997 world champion has slowly come around however, insisting the 21-year-old is no longer the driver he was a few years ago.

"It may be clear that if you are offered the opportunity to race in Formula 1, you take it with both hands," said Villeneuve in an exclusive interview with Dutch website RacingNews365.

"As a young driver you never know what a season in Formula 2 class will bring you, so you have to choose Formula 1 when you have the option.

"Max made the right choice by opting for Red Bull. That team fits him very well, because they build the team around one driver. If he was driving for another team, I don't think he would be around for long.

"Max has done well in recent years, but let's face it, he is no longer the driver of three years ago."

"With his current form, he could compete for the title with a good car.

"That chance may not come to pass this season, but in the coming years I think he's ready as a person," said Villeneuve.

The 47-year-old pundit insists that only well-prepared young drivers must enter F1.

"Drivers who enter Formula 1 must be immediately ready to compete," added Villeneuve.

"That means that you must have learned a lot in the preliminary phase.

"That’s how Verstappen should have made his debut in F1, but he got the chance to get in much younger and with a lot less experience.

"I can understand that you take that opportunity because you simply can't refuse it."

Villeneuve also believes that Max's father, former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, was instrumental in fast-tracking his son's apprenticeship in F1.

"Jos played that very cleverly," said Villeneuve. "He has clearly shown Red Bull that Max can be very important to the team.

"That worked out well in the end, and as a result the team is now completely built around Max."

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