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Max Verstappen




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Max Verstappen


Hasselt, Belgium
Bree, Belgium

Official website:


Few teenagers are more steeped in motorsport. His father, Jos, a veteran of 107 Grands Prix, drove for Benetton, Simtek, Footwork, Tyrrell, Stewart, Arrows and Minardi, as well as being at the centre of one of the most iconic images in the history of the sport.

"When I was three years old he took me to a kart race and that’s when I knew I wanted to race also," admits Max." My father wanted to wait till my sixth birthday, but I was so persistent that I got in a kart for the first time at four."

His speed genes don't only come from his father's side of the family however, his mother Sophie proved a fast driver too, beating several F1 drivers in karting events.

By 2003 Max was karting regularly in private training once or twice a week and at several other circuits with "Mini" karts. The serious racing only started in 2005, when he completed a full Mini karting season and won the Belgium Championship Mini (VAS), dominating with 21 races and 21 wins.

Having been through it all himself it is father Jos who has so much experience to pass on. "My father has always been closely involved in my career, from the very start. As a coach, mentor, mechanic, manager and taxi-driver, since I’m not old enough to have a driver’s license yet," adds Max.

When Max was conceived Jos was in the midst of his F1 career and ten days after his son was born he jetted off to Suzuka to contest the Japanese Grand Prix for Tyrrell.

Max has already matched a very important mark set by his father, winning the Zandvoort Masters F3 race, which Jos achieved that in 1993 and Max mirrored in 2014, setting off from pole just as his dad did.

Following a successful career in Karts, culminating in winning the KZ1 World Championship last year, Max stepped up to open wheelers in 2014 in the inaugural Florida Winter Series racing the 1.4 litre turbocharged FTP engined Tatuus FA10B. He had been preparing for the move in 2013 with several tests in Formula Renault 2.0 cars with different teams on various circuits and one test in an ATS Formel 3 Cup car.

2014 started with a great run in Florida, at Sebring he took the fastest lap on his way to fourth in his first race and in the 12 race series scored 2 wins and 3 other podiums. That success was quickly eclipsed when he joined the Van Amersfoort Racing team for the FIA Formula 3 European Championship.

He started out with simple aims: "To try to make as few mistakes as possible and win as many races as I can. Trying to be consistent and finish as high as possible in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship."

He did not disappoint himself or anyone else. Picking up his first win in just the sixth race of the highly competitive series at the Hockenheimring he quickly established himself as one of the stars of the show when he won races 13 to 18, an incredible run of six victories, totally dominating the events at Spa and the Norisring.

Unsurprisingly he counts the Belgian outing as his best race so far. "Spa-Francorchamps, race 3 of round 5, at Les Combes I overtook two competitors on the same move, on the outside after a slipstream."

It is his favourite circuit. "I like Spa-Francorchamps because it is a high speed circuit with a lot fast corners, which are always my favourite. It is also a challenging and very fluent track and therefore great to drive."

Finishing the season third overall, by late August, with only the Imola and Hockenheim rounds remaining, Max had already been confirmed as part of Toro Rosso's F1 line-up for 2015, replacing Daniil Kvyat who was stepping up to replace Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.

The news sent shockwaves through the sport, as Max would become the youngest ever driver to start a Grand Prix when he lined up on the grid in Melbourne. Indeed, among the first to react was the FIA which not only introduced a new minimum age for drivers (18) but tough new rules in terms of the requisite superlicence.

The youngster took the track for FP1 at Suzuka, Austin and Interlagos, and it was soon clear that his feedback, much like his driving, belied his tender years.

Though he suffered disappointment in the Macau Grand Prix he took victory on home soil in the Masters of Formula 3, his father having won the event in 1993.

Max clearly had talent, a lot of talent. However, there was that nagging feeling that at 17 he just might be too young for such a baptism of fire, after all, the team is not known for its patience. To add to the pressure, Max was to be partnered by Carlos Sainz Jr, which meant that in 2015 the Faenza team would be fielding two rookies with an average age of just under nineteen.

It was with delicious irony, that barely a year after the FIA - shocked by Max' tender years - had introduced the minimum age (18) and tightened the superlicence rules, that the youngster found himself on stage at the organisation's annual awards ceremony picking up the Rookie of the Year, Personality of the Year and Action of the Year awards. Now that, Ms Morissette, is ironic.

Rather than list his many extraordinary drives and moves - enough to not only win him the aforementioned FIA awards but also numerous accolades at the Pitpass Annual Awards - it would be simpler to look at the negatives, of which there were precious few.

First there was the overambitious move on Grosjean at Monaco, resulting in his elimination and a grid penalty for Canada. Then there was the nightmare weekend in Abu Dhabi, the youngster clearly saving the worst for last.

His maturity, his bravery, his total refusal to be intimidated, not to mention feedback skills and ability in all conditions, signalled something very special, not for the first time, Red Bull/Toro Rosso had a superstar on its hands.

The move to Ferrari power - albeit a 2015 unit - for 2016 promised more reliability and improved pace which hopefully meant we would witness further improvement from the youngster. Furthermore, with dad Jos forever in the background, Max has his feet planted squarely on the ground, vital not only in terms of keeping the youngster on the straight and narrow but also advising him on what's best in terms of his career.

Following that electric debut in 2015 it was obvious that soon a number of the big teams would be beating a path to Max' door, but as we warned at the time, the youngster needed at least one, maybe two, more years before stepping up, after all, we suggested, how many other potential superstars had come a cropper after just one or two seasons?

How wrong we were.

Looking back, many believe that Max' season began in Spain, when he was promoted to Red Bull from Toro Rosso. It didn't, his season began in Melbourne when he put the Ferrari-powered car fifth on the grid, ahead of the two Bulls and just behind the Mercedes and works Ferraris, using a 2015 engine.

Unfortunately, his team messed things up and later spun in his efforts to pass teammate Carlos Sainz, ultimately finishing a distant tenth. However, he followed up with points finishes in Bahrain and China.

Winning on his Red Bull debut in Spain was not only historic, it was the stuff of folklore, the sort of anecdote one will recount to the grandchildren in years to come.

Yes, Max benefitted from the Mercedes duo taking one another out and also from his team's decision to put Daniel Ricciardo on an ultimately wrong strategy, but at the end of the day it was ultimately the teenager who soaked up the pressure, particularly from a fired-up Kimi Raikkonen.

Indeed, much like Daniil Kvyat had their close encounters at the beginning of the season, Max and Kimi continued to scrap throughout the year, the Iceman finally losing his cool on more than one occasion.

Be it the impetuousness of youth or the blind daring of the impervious and inexperienced, Max really didn't give a 'Four X', nothing and nobody was sacred.

Reminiscent of the "don't you know who I am?" cry of z-list 'celebrities', Max' mantra was seemingly, "I don't care who you are, you're not getting by" or "I don't care who you are, I'm passing you". Nothing and nobody was sacred.

Indeed, Max' approach can best be summed up by Nico Rosberg when told he had to pass the Dutch teenager if he was to claim the title.

Having been involved in a no-holds barred battle with the youngster earlier in the race, in the closing stages Rosberg was told it was now "critical" to get by the Red Bull driver again.

"I heard Tony (his engineer) say it was critical to pass Verstappen for the championship, I thought 'Holy moly!'" he admitted. "That's not a nice thing to hear, that was bad, a horrible feeling."

Despite a slight wobble when he made his initial attack, the Mercedes driver subsequently made it stick. "It was not good but it worked out," he said. "The feelings I had when I realised I had passed him, I have never had that in a race car before."

Indeed, such was the youngster's approach, particularly to defending his position, the FIA had to clarify the rules... for the more experienced, older drivers.

Throughout the season the youngster continued to tick the boxes, and while there were mistakes including some poor starts and a weakness - certainly compared to his teammate - in qualifying, for the most part he continued not only to impress but to grab the headlines.

Though it is far too early, and unfair, to start making comparisons, his bravura performance in Brazil echoed the brilliance of Senna and Schumacher, yes, he was simply that good.

There remain a number of rough edges, areas he must work on, but let's not forget we're talking about a 19-year-old.

Those who thought 2015 might be a flash in the pan were proved wrong, indeed for the second successive year the Red Bull driver embarrassed the FIA - which had changed the superlicence qualification parameters after he signed to Toro Rosso – into eating humble pie as he collected further awards at the Annual prize giving.

As his confidence grows it will be interesting to see how Red Bull keeps him in line, and how the relationship with Ricciardo fares.

Throughout 2016 the pair appeared to get on well, but bearing in mind how the relationship between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel spiralled out of control, one cannot help but feel that before much longer something is going to have to give... this team doesn't appear big enough for the both of them.

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