For many racecar drivers, Formula 1 is all-consuming. But not for Max Verstappen.
“Sometimes people take F1 too seriously, as if it’s a life-or-death situation, thinking ‘if I don’t make it to Formula 1, my life is over,’ or such That’s all, Red Bull’s Verstappen said in an interview.
“For me, it never was and never will be. I’m very happy that I’m in Formula 1 now, but even if I wasn’t, I’d do something else, racing-related stuff to have fun, a To have a good time.”
This underscores not only his calm attitude towards life, but also his first serious challenge to the Formula 1 drivers’ title.
Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix in October, Verstappen shocked many when he said that if he failed to win the championship this year, a second-place finish would not change his life.
“I know if my car is fast enough by the end of the season, I will win the championship, but if it’s not, we probably won’t win it,” said Verstappen, who is Dutch. “At the end of the day, it’s not going to change my world.
“Of course, the goal, the dream is always to win the championship, but you need a little luck, for that you have to have the right car at the right time of the season or throughout the season.”
Verstappen has maintained his philosophical, grassroots approach from an early age. He doesn’t rely on a psychologist or other wellness experts to help him channel his energy as some other drivers do. it comes naturally.
“I like what I’m doing in F1, and I always try to do the best I can, but there’s no added pressure,” Verstappen said. “I would say if you have a good car it takes away even more pressure.
“It means you can go on the weekend knowing you can have a great result. I think it really calms me down.”
Verstappen’s relaxed attitude about winning is helped by the fact that he drives one of the best cars for one of the best teams in Formula 1. It has helped Verstappen win eight Grands Prix and have a 12-point lead over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with five. Race left. This weekend in Mexico is the first.
The weather has been turbulent at times, with Verstappen being involved in high-profile incidents with Hamilton. The first was during the British Grand Prix where he touched the wheels, sending Verstappen into the barrier at 180 mph
At the Italian Grand Prix, they collided with each other, with Verstappen’s car ending on top of Hamilton.
“Yeah, I had to back out of some scenarios with Max because otherwise we’re going to crash, and I’m like, ‘I’ll beat him the other way,'” Hamilton told ESPN last month.
“I know he’ll probably learn from experience, as I will. I can’t expect things to change, so I’ll try to apply myself better going forward, and I’m just more in control of my space.” I can.”
After that accident, three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart described Verstappen as the fastest man on the grid, but he is “still a bit in the puppy stage.”
This is Verstappen’s seventh season in Formula 1 and he has participated in 136 Grands Prix at 17 years and 166 days after becoming the youngest driver ever in the sport in 2015. He is now 24 years old.
“I always respect Sir Jackie’s opinion, but I think Max has shown a lot of maturity this year,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “Of course, you are always evolving, always learning. I am sure Sir Jackie has made some mistakes in his time.
“That’s the journey of life, you learn from every experience, and when you look at the progress of a 17-year-old, when he got into Formula 1, the driver he is today, it’s very impressive.”
Toto Wolff, the team principal of Red Bull’s top competitor Mercedes, said he was also impressed by Verstappen.
“Obviously, Max isn’t driving for Mercedes, so I don’t know him really well, but his trajectory is impressive, not just in his pace, but the way he tackles the weekend,” he added .
Verstappen made his debut in karts when he was 4 years old. With his father, Jose, a former Formula 1 driver, to guide him, he became world karting champion at the age of 15. Less than two years later, he was driving in Formula 1.
Verstappen naturally cites his father as his biggest inspiration.
“Without him, I just wouldn’t be sitting here,” Verstappen said. “What he did for me from a very young age was very important to me because I am still ready.
“We had a lot of moments in go-karting, of course, traveling all over Europe. He designed everything for me from the go-kart tuning my engine. It was a real father-son job. Which was simultaneously trying to achieve the goal of being in Formula 1.
The goal was achieved in 2014, when, a month before his 17th birthday, it was announced that he would be driving for Toro Rosso the following year.
There were difficult moments in the beginning. Verstappen crashed into a barrier at his first Monaco Grand Prix in 2015, and has been criticized for his aggressive driving at times by his fellow drivers.
Charlie Whiting, the sport’s race director at the time, met with Verstappen in 2016 and warned him that he risked getting “a bad name for himself” if he didn’t curb his aggressive driving.
Verstappen’s talent always outweighed his teammates. Sergio Perez is his fourth at Red Bull.
“It is not easy being Verstappen’s teammate because he is the one with the car,” Perez said. Verstappen, he said, had “no obvious” weaknesses.
“He’s actually delivering at a very high level,” Perez said. “Max has been the driver of the season so far. He has made the least number of mistakes than anyone, keeping things together at a very high standard.
“I’ve been surprised in a very positive way.”
Clear progress would have seen Verstappen beat Hamilton to win the championship this year. Despite Verstappen’s remarks that a second-place finish would not change his world, he said he would be “disappointed” if he did not win with the fastest car.
Verstappen said he had to “maximize everything every single weekend”, and that he “still needs to be perfect” in order to beat Hamilton, even if the Red Bull car is the fastest.
“It’s all about the little details that can make a big difference,” Verstappen said. “It’s everyone’s general attention before going into the weekend, pit stops, setup work, and preparation.”
If it all goes together, he will eventually become the Formula 1 champion.
“It’s a dream when I was a little kid with my father, trying to get to Formula 1 in first place and then fight for a title,” Verstappen said.
“Certainly, it would mean a lot if we could win it.”