TALENT OF THE CENTURY: Mercedes non-executive Niki Lauda, branded the young Max Verstappen (pictured) as the 'talent of the century' after the 18-year-old won the 2016 Spanish GP. Image: AP / Emilio Morenatti
Cape Town - Even Dr Helmut Marko's arch rival Niki Lauda on Sunday had to tip his famous red cap to Max Verstappen.
As the Mercedes team chairman, Lauda was furious in Barcelona after the collision between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg opened the door for Red Bull's new recruit Max Verstappen to record an historic win.
"I have no answer except to take my cap off," the Formula 1 legend, who still wears a red cap to cover his scars some 40 years after his 1976 Nürburgring crash, is quoted by the German news agency DPA.
READ: 5 memorable moments of 2016 Spanish F1 GP
'Talent of the century'
"What we are seeing is a talent of the century," Lauda added, referring to Verstappen.
For once, Lauda and his compatriot Dr Marko - the architect of Red Bull's often controversial young driver programme - completely agree.
Marko told the Austrian broadcaster ORF: "It is unbelievable what he (Verstappen) did. The way he kept the lead with someone like [Kimi] Raikkonen harrying him is incredible."
Writing for Italy's La Repubblica, correspondent Marco Mensura summarised Verstappen's shock breakthrough in Spain by declaring that - like it or not the methods of Marko's brutal regime - Red Bull has uncovered a true F1 star.
READ: 'That champagne tastes nice' - Verstappen
Mensura wrote: "Winning a race like this at 18, at a circuit like this, with someone like Raikkonen attacking for 50 laps, not just anyone can do.
"Congratulations to him and those who have understood the talent on their hands.
"That said, I would go against the ocean of rhetoric about this guy (Verstappen) to repeat what I have said before: I would have preferred Red Bull to handle this driver change differently.
"Betting on teenagers is good marketing, but from the sporting point of view it produces one Verstappen for every 50 Alguersuari. Sportingly speaking, it is carnage," Mensura added.