In the Spotlight: Max Verstappen

A series of F1 drivers’ profiles

By Daphne Seberich

They call him “mad” and he goes to the “max”: Max Verstappen is one of the drivers of the future generation of champions. 

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Notorious for being the youngest driver to compete, score points and win in Formula One, “Mad Max” quickly moved up the ranks of the team backing him up since 2014, Red Bull Racing

Racing runs in his blood. His father, Jos Verstappen, is a former F1 driver, known for the incident in the pit lane where he took on fire when refueling was still allowed in the circus. His mother, Sophie Kumpen, was a successful karting racer.

Being the son of a famous racing driver subsequently put him under pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps. Nevertheless, the superb Dutch driver, endowed with such rare and raw talent, climbed the latter of karting competitions, where every F1 racer starts off their careers.

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The success he had in the younger categories opened the doors to international competitions in 2010, his most notorious win being scored in France at the 2013 World KZ championships at the age of 15. 

One year after, Verstappen joined the Red Bull Junior Program, which supported him throughout his path to F1. A short-lived progression to the younger Formula categories, the Dutch made it from F3 to F1 at only 17 years old. 

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Arriving as Formula 1’s youngest ever competitor at 17, Verstappen pushed his car, his rivals and the sport’s record books to the limit. The Dutchman with the heart of a lion took the Toro Rosso – and then the Red Bull – by the horns with his instinctive racing style. 

F1’s youngest points scorer soon became its youngest race winner. At the age of 18 years and 228 days, with an opportunistic but controlled drive on debut for Red Bull in Barcelona 2016, Verstappen made it into the history of the sport. He is a true wheel-to-wheel racer and known for racing to the limit of his car and abilities. 

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Verstappen’s attitude and hard defending have sometimes stirred controversies with his colleagues and superiors. But the mistakes that initially disfigured his potential have given way to maturity, while the boldness and energy that make him a one-of-a-kind talent have remained. The victories have kept on coming.

At the age of 23, “Mad Max” has already ten victories under his belt, his most recent being the final race of the 2020 season in Abu Dhabi under the lights. He has stood 42 times on the podium since replacing mid-season the “Torpedo” Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull in 2016. An impressive number, considering that his percentage of podiums and race starts is 35.29%, meaning that approximately in one out of three races he competes in, he scores a top-three result.

Max Verstappen’s prospects are bright. The youngster, who’s only missing a Driver’s Championship in his array of achievements, has still a long career ahead of him in the sport. After the pre-season testing sessions in Bahrain, he also seems a favorite with Lewis Hamilton to win the 2021 Formula One title. He has got the right car and one of the top teams backing him. Can he make it into F1’s history as a champion?

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Looking for the best Formula

More and more teams are set to release their 2021 challengers in the next month. But who’s racing for which manufacturer? The 2020 silly-season is finally overThe 2020 silly-season is finally over and we’re ready to give you a rundown of it all. 

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By Daphne Seberich 

As the first Formula 1 race in Bahrain is getting closer, the excitement of the fans surrounding the start of the new season is beginning to show. The different teams are preparing to launch their new 2021 challengers ahead of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit. Many drivers have found their way to their new homes during the winter. Last year’s silly-season was full of surprise announcements, delayed contract signatures and unknown futures. Who’s exactly racing for which team you may ask? Let us give you a rundown of it all.

The first one to release their 2021 challenger is McLaren, who will publicly announce their MCL35M on February 15th. British sensation Lando Norris, who started competing in F1 with McLaren in 2019, will begin his third season with the Woking-based team. 

The new addition to the 2021 McLaren driver-lineup will be Aussie superstar Daniel Ricciardo, who left Renault F1 team after securing them their first podium since 2011 at the Nürburgring. He then also scored third place in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, proving to be in top shape when it comes to performance. Many will have high expectations for Ricciardo in the MCL35M. Hopefully, he’ll adapt to his new drive soon enough to challenge the other midfielder for points.

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Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren was finalized as former driver Carlos Sainz left the Woking team to race for Scuderia Ferrari. Shortly after Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s team principal, announced that the Scuderia would not renew Sebastian Vettel’s contract for 2021, Sainz’s transfer was disclosed to the fans. The unsettling part of all this silly-season unfolding is the fact that by then, the 2020 championship hadn’t even started. Sebastian Vettel had to race with a team that abandoned trust and hope in his abilities.

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Ferrari’s focus shifted midst the 2019 season towards youngster Charles Leclerc, who has a long-term project ahead with the Maranello-based team. He signed a contract with the prancing horse through 2023. Will he stay until then? Ferrari hasn’t done too well in 2020 and if the Scuderia can’t engineer a title-challenging car for the Monegasque star, he might choose a different route in the future. 

The rejected four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel found himself in a tricky situation. The German sensation’s dream to win the Driver’s Championship with Ferrari was crushed to pieces. In addition to that, not many competitive seats were left for him to fill. 

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When Monza came around, rumors surrounding the German champion moving to Aston Martin Racing arose in the paddock. The problem was that there were no available contracts at the former Racing Point manufacturer. Team owner Lawrence Stroll’s son, Lance Stroll, would’ve never lost his seat. Stroll Sr. bought the company for his protegé to be able to compete in the circus. That was clear to everyone. The one who had to go, even though he had a contract until 2023 and was deserving to stay in Formula 1, was Checo Perez.

Perez, who saved the ex Force India team from bankruptcy, was forced to find a new home. As the season went by, Checo proved to be consistently at the top of the field, securing second place in Turkey. Most importantly, he triumphed in the Sakhir GP, recovering after an incident all the way from last place. He earned his maiden victory with the insecurity of being able to compete in the 2021 season. 

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As the championship ended, Perez’s future was still uncertain. Red Bull Racing was the only team that could’ve offered him a seat in 2021. Helmut Marko, Red Bull and Alpha Tauri’s driver consultant, saw the opportunity to finally sign a competitive teammate for Max Verstappen, one capable of pushing the team to the top of the standings. 

After Sebastian Vettel’s last championship title win in 2013, the Milton-Keynes-based-manufacturer never managed to come close to Mercedes’s dominance in the field. Verstappen’s 2020 teammate, Alex Albon, couldn’t keep up with the pressure he was under and was dropped at the end of the season to make place for Perez. Sister team Alpha Tauri was set to sign Yuki Tsunoda to replace Daniil Kvyat

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Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes decided to keep everyone on their toes. His contract with the Constructor’s Championship titleholders expired at the end of the 2020 season. No one thought Hamilton was gonna retire, especially ahead of the 2022 FIA regulation change. Contract negotiations went down for over a year at Mercedes with the British champion only signing at the beginning of February. Lewis Hamilton is officially giving becoming the most successful Formula 1 driver ever a shot. He equaled Michael Schumacher, can he beat his seven titles as well?

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Speaking of Schumacher, his son Mick will make his debut in the pinnacle of motorsport with Haas F1 Team. After having Romain Grosjean since their first appearance in the sport in 2016 and Kevin Magnussen since 2017, the South Tyrolean team principal Günther Steiner decided that the American manufacturer needed a refreshed driver lineup. It will be the first time after 2012 that F1 will see the Schumacher last name on the grid. Mick will be paired with the troublesome Nikita Mazepin, who has had controversies surround him in recent times. Will Haas score better results with an all-rookie driver lineup?

And last but not least important, Fernando Alonso is making his F1 return after leaving McLaren in 2018. The Spaniard will be joining the team that aided him to win his two Driver’s Championship titles, Renault. The French manufacturer will be called Alpine from 2021, their supercar brand department. 

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A full-circle moment. Ricciardo leaving Renault pushed Alonso towards rejoining the pinnacle of motorsport. We never know what to expect from the silly-season. What can we await from the manufacturers? We’ll find out in March when the 2021 championship will finally get underway.