Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko believes that Max Verstappen has matured and become his own man behind the weel remarkably quickly.
Up to now, much has been made of the way that Verstappen's skills and temperament in the cockpit have been shaped by the lessons he learned from his father Jos, himself a successful F1 driver between 1994 and 2003.
But Marko says that the 24 year old has already moved on and progressed from those early lessons and that the newly crowned world champion has changed and improved on his way to clinching the title.
“Max has clearly matured," Marko told Austrian magazine Autorevue in a recent interview. “This process of maturity wasn't always so visible from the outside, but it has reached the highest level very quickly.
“You have to remember he's still only 24," he added, commenting that it was only natural that it had taken some time for Max to 'wean' himself off his upbringing.
"He was super-trained and shaped by his father," Marko acknowledged. "The relationship is still very close, but Max has his own opinion today."
In his earlier days, Max was noted for his hot-headedness and his tendency to see 'red mist' when things didn't go his way. That's no longer the case, explained Marko.
“Verstappen has driven almost flawlessly, has improved in all areas and is no longer impetuous,” said Marko. “In the past, he would have liked to do everything on the first lap.
"If something didn’t go right in preparation, he would always explode. Today he stays calm. We had a few technical problems, but now he just sees the whole picture.
Last year the most frequent complaint about Verstappen's driving was they he was too ruthless and unwilling to back down even in potentially dangerous confrontations with his main title rival Lewis Hamilton.
But Marko insisted that it showed his young protege was no different from other greats of the sport such as Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
“There’s nothing there but ‘I want to win, and I’ll do everything for it’," Marko said of such exceptional racing talents. "They grow beyond normally non-existent possibilities.”
But sometimes this do-or-die attitude can backfire, as happened in qualifying in Saudi Arabia where Verstappen crashed on the final lap by pushing over the edge.
"Until then he was sensationally fast," said of the mistake which had looked like potentially costing Verstappen the title. "He was driving the car so over the limit, it was even visually visible.”
Marko's thoughts on Verstappen's development are broadly shared by the driver's father.
"With all the years we’ve spent together, it’s in him now, he knows how to do it," Jos told the media in December.
“When I look at him, he’s so much more mature than I was at his age," he admitted. "What more could I teach him? I don’t think I have anything to teach him now.
"I really stay back, he added. "I’m talking to Max’s engineer because I really like the Grands Prix, but it’s very brief. I’m happy that I’m not more involved, and I don’t want to be."