Max Verstappen: World Champion is already looking forward to life beyond F1
New York City (CNN) When it comes to Formula 1, a sport where danger is literally lurking around the corner – it’s not for nothing that Netflix called its documentaries “Drive to Survive” – the two-time world champion Max Verstappen doesn’t seem to show any fear.
The 25-year-old Red Bull driver takes no prisoners on and off the track, frequently pushing his car to the limit and colliding with other drivers, even within his own team.
But the Dutchman has a Kryptonite sort of thing, admitting to CNN Sport’s Carolyn Manno at Red Bull’s season opener in New York City last week that when it comes to any nervousness, “I don’t mind the little spiders, but I like the big hairy ones ones… [and] I really don’t like snakes! Luckily, where I live in Monaco, it’s not that bad.”
Aside from pranking his colleagues Verstappen by, say, shoving a snake into the cockpit, it’s hard to imagine the stalwart Dutchman not being on pole to secure his third consecutive title this season.
“We want to keep winning”
The 2021 season marked his rise to become a true superstar in the sport.
While there was controversy over his 2021 championship win thanks to a last-round restart at the season finale in Abu Dhabi after his great rival Lewis Hamilton looked certain of clinching a record-breaking eighth world title, the 2022 season has been in pretty much a procession .
Verstappen defended his crown in style, winning a record 15 races, securing the title in October and becoming only the fourth driver to secure the world championship with four or more races remaining.
Verstappen isn’t one to talk about his performances – “we want to keep winning… so of course anything but that is a disappointment,” he stressed in New York.
He also deflects any conversation about rivalry with Hamilton — “it’s not something that necessarily drives me” — or his own teammate Sergio Pérez, saying “we’re professional enough to get past those things,” a reference to the Dutchman He ignored team orders to let the 33-year-old Mexican through in the last lap in Brazil last year.
Verstappen is more willing to open up about relationships with two key influences in his life: his father Jos and Red Bull founder and owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who died on the eve of the Austin Grand Prix last year at the age of 78 .
The death of Mateschitz has clearly hit Verstappen, who says that “Austin was a very tough weekend for us when Dietrich died, basically the man who created everything for us… the only thing we could do that weekend was of course to try to win this race, which luckily we managed to do.
“And then we won the constructors’ championship. [Championship]so there are a lot of emotions going through your mind and for the team in general throughout the weekend.”
His father Jos, himself a former F1 driver, coached his son for so long that he said “Max was my life project” and “I did more for Max’s career than for my own career” – not to mention that he is an intrinsic reason his son became the youngest athlete ever for Toro Rosso in 2015 at just 17 years old.
F1’s youngest points-scorer then became the youngest race winner in his Red Bull debut the following year.
Verstappen senior’s approach hasn’t escaped the Red Bull star, who admits his desire to win comes from his father.
“I think it’s a general mentality that we have in the family,” he notes. “Like growing up as a little kid spending so much time with my dad going to all the circuits. I think a lot of those things always have to do with how you’re brought up.”
Father and son will have three opportunities to discuss and analyze the upcoming season on American soil as F1 continues to push into a crowded market.
This is fueled in no small part by the popularity of ‘Drive to Survive’, which Verstappen famously avoided last season due to concerns about its portrayal – he has since changed his position and will be part of season five, which debuts later in this one Month.
Verstappen recognizes that the sport is having its moment in the United States.
“We’re growing, the US is a very big country,” he explains. “And I think it’s a very important market for Formula 1 as a whole and I’m obviously really looking forward to racing at three different circuits.”
The debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix this November will add even more glitz and glamor to the circuit and will join Miami and Austin in the 23 races on the 2023 calendar.
When asked what interests him most about Vegas, Verstappen says, “It’s more about the weirdness that it brings – like everyone wants to go there. Everyone expects a lot. And from my side I just hope it will be an exciting weekend.”
And yet, despite back-to-back titles, becoming the Netherlands’ first world champion and claiming 35 Grand Prix victories in his eight years in the sport – enough for sixth place on the all-time list The legendary Ayrton Senna’s mark of 41 victories is said to be to be surpassed this year – Verstappen is by no means sure he will stay in F1.
He’s even on record that he won’t see himself driving a car by the age of 40.
Pressing his reasoning, Verstappen explains: “The problem is that we travel so much and it’s increasing… basically the question is, ‘Is it worth spending so much time away from family and friends? on the hunt for more success?’
“And I mean, I’ve already achieved everything I wanted in Formula 1. But I know that I have a contract until 2028. I’m going to be 31. It’s quite young, but like I said, I want to do other things in life.” .”
No matter what scares Verstappen, perhaps the only thing his fellow drivers have to fear is fear that the world champion will change his mind about calling it quits sooner rather than later.