Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen 
“Why would I freak out in an F1 car?”

Words: Werner Jessner
Photography: Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

The 17-year-old Dutchman will go down in history when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso at this year’s Australian Grand Prix



THE RED BULLETIN : While others are thinking about finishing college, you’re joining Formula One. Any doubts?

MAX VERSTAPPEN : No. I know this is what I can and want to do. I’ve wanted to be a Formula One driver since I was four. Now’s my chance and I’m going to take it. 

The FIA President Jean Todt clearly thinks 17 is too young. He’s announced a minimum age of 18 for F1 from 2016. Is this a Verstappen law?

Max Verstappen

Driving force: Max Verstappen puts his ascent into F1 down to his father’s influence 

Whatever. As it is, I’m the youngest Formula One driver there’ll ever be. My first of what I hope will be many records!

What would you have done if things hadn’t worked out with F1?

I would have ground out a year in GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5, though really that would have been a waste of time.

How did you get the seat with Scuderia Toro Rosso?

I was at the office of Red Bull motorsport consultant, Helmut Marko, in Graz, Austria. He asked me and I said yes. I saw it coming, but it was still a shock.

Did you call anyone?

My mum – Dad was sitting next to me.

Your dad, Jos Verstappen, drove in 108 grands prix and is a big name in racing. Is your whole family into motorsport?

My mother was a successful kart racer and my 15-year-old sister races karts too. Ever since I can remember, all I’ve I wanted to do is become a racing driver.

Has Jos influenced your development? 

That was part of my career planning. I got through a lot of developmental stages more quickly thanks to his experience. To start with I went to regular schools, but then travel got in the way of that and the only way forward was to have private tuition. I’ve been a professional racing driver since the age of 12, with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with that.

Didn’t you yearn for a regular childhood?

My dad was quite strict. He taught me that you’re never perfect and you can always improve. That spurred me on a lot, to be good enough to have a crack at Formula One and then go on to become world champion.

“The trade-off between pure adrenalin and precise engineering fascinates me”
Max Verstappen

Has Verstappen senior ever been satisfied with your performance?

Yes, when we won the karting world championships. He couldn’t be too critical when I’d just won the series.

And what about you?

One or two races in Formula 3 were really, really good, even if deep inside you’re thinking there were a couple of little things you could have done better.

You featured highly on all the top Formula One teams’ wish lists. What made you decide to go for Toro Rosso?

It’s been proven that the Red Bull junior programme gets drivers to the top. They clearly know how to deal with young drivers. Look at Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.

Were you really as cool on the inside as you looked on the outside at your first test sessions?

Why would I freak out? I was where I’d always wanted to be, sitting in the cockpit of a Formula One car.

You didn’t feel like you were overextending yourself?

No, I was well prepared. My father’s tough training paid off.

What’s it like driving an F1 car?

Amazing! 

What is it about racing that you find so fascinating?

The trade-off between pure adrenalin and precise engineering, between being aggressive and being rational.

Would you prefer to win having led from the front uncontested or after a wheel-to-wheel battle?

I’d want to overtake first and then win.

What’s your driving style like?

Depends what I need to do. I’m aggressive when overtaking, gentle when I have to go easy on the tyres. I’m not a one-trick pony.

How do you handle adrenalin?

I sleep it off. I even dropped off at the Toro Rosso factory when they were adjusting my F1 seat. I never have trouble sleeping, I’m lucky like that. It means my batteries are always fully charged.

Most Formula One drivers live in Monaco or Switzerland – will you be moving any time soon?

No, we’re staying in Belgium. I’m not an adult yet, remember. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Nothing will change that quickly on the personal front. 

FACTS

Name
Max Emilian Verstappen

Born
September 30, 1997, in Hasselt, Belgium. (He has Belgian and Dutch citizenship)

Achievements
2013 karting World Champion, two-time European karting champion. Third in the European Formula 3 series with a record-breaking 10 wins 

Start number 
33

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