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?

Photo credits: Pinterest