Max Verstappen’s remarkable rise through the ranks had people talking before he got to Formula 1. When he did arrive, people had even more reason to talk. Now a proven race winner, the next step for the Dutchman is surely a title charge.
|Full Name||Max Emilian Verstappen|
|Date of Birth||30th September 1997|
|First Race||2015 Australian Grand Prix|
|First Win||2016 Spanish Grand Prix|
Born in 1997, the son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen began karting when he was four years old. After competing in the Rotax Max Minimax class and winning the Belgian championship, Max went on to win the 2007 Dutch Minimax championship. In 2010 he made the step up to international karting, finishing second in his first year at the KF3 World Cup. He continued in karting for the next three years.
It wasn’t until 2013 that Verstappen had his first taste of a ‘proper’ racing car. After testing a Formula 3 car in the December, and going faster than regular Formula 3 drivers, he stepped into the European Formula 3 Championship for 2014. While on his way to third in that Championship, Max joined the Red Bull junior team, after refusing an offer from Mercedes. Six days after joining it was announced that Max, who was just sixteen at the time, would become a Toro Rosso driver in 2015. He had his first F1 practice outing at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, becoming the youngest driver to participate in a Formula One weekend.
Many said he was too young and too inexperienced. Formula 1 even introduced a rule in January 2015 so that drivers could only enter the sport once they were eighteen. But nothing phased the now seventeen year old Verstappen. After running in the top ten in his maiden race he was forced into retirement by engine troubles. He qualified sixth in his second Grand Prix and finished the race seventh, becoming the youngest F1 points scorer. The season progressed with the odd rookie error – notably his crash with Grosjean in Monaco – but the points kept coming.
Max remained at Toro Rosso for the start of the 2016 season, but it wasn’t long before he and Daniil Kvyat infamously swapped seats. The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix went down in history as, in his first outing for Red Bull, Max Verstappen became the youngest ever race winner. He went on to perform well throughout the rest of the season, firmly cementing his position as a champion in waiting.
It was a season of two halves for Verstappen in 2017. While the first half was dogged with one reliability problem after another, he scored two wins in the second half. He beat his team-mate in Qualifying over the course of the season. Despite being the full-term driver who competed the least laps in 2017, Verstappen made himself seen in the races where he was able to compete – finishing no lower than fifth in every race he finished, with the exception of the Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen had a scrappy opening to his 2018 campaign: a spin in Australia at a pivotal moment, collisions with Hamilton in Bahrain and with Vettel in China, a crash with his team-mate in Azerbaijan and, perhaps most costly of all, a crash in final practice at Monaco which saw him unable to take part in Qualifying. With media pressure mounting, Max soon silenced critics by returning to the podium in Canada and France and then won the Austrian Grand Prix. The Dutchman’s second half of the season was very strong indeed, with top five finishes in all of the last nine races, seven of those being podium finishes. Despite missing out on pole by just 0.026 seconds in Mexico, on a rare occasion where he was out-qualified by his team-mate, Verstappen claimed his second victory of the season.
VERSTAPPEN IN 2019
2019 was Max Verstappen’s strongest season so far. He started it off by carrying forward the strong form that he had shown at the end of 2018. As he had done in every race of the second half of 2018, he finished in the top five at every race in the first half of 2019. He took two podium finishes in Australia and Spain – and put up a strong fight for victory in Monaco despite incurring a penalty – before taking his first win of the season after a duel with Charles Leclerc at the Red Bull Ring. Though he was crashed into by Sebastian Vettel at the following race, not even that could stop the Red Bull star from finishing in the top five.
The two most chaotic races of 2019 were both won by Verstappen. He mastered the wet weather at Hockenheim to take a commanding German Grand Prix win, and he controlled the field through multiple Safety Car periods in Brazil to win there for the first time. It was also a year of firsts for Verstappen, who finally claimed his first pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He would go on to set the fastest time in qualifying twice more later in the season, in Mexico and Brazil.
While Red Bull’s form dropped slightly in the second half of the season, and Verstappen himself recorded two DNFs following contact in Belgium and Japan, there were still high points, with him ending the year with a run of three podium finishes. There was still the odd flash of immaturity in 2019 – the biggest mistake being admitting to not slowing down under waved double yellow flags in qualifying for the Mexico Grand Prix, an admission which saw him stripped of pole position. But Verstappen was much more consistent in 2019, allowing him to fight to the end of the year with the Ferrari drivers in the Drivers’ Championship; a battle which he eventually won. After amassing his highest points tally and finishing a career-best third in the championship, Verstappen has admitted that the opening races of 2020 will be key to deciding his Red Bull future. Will his team give him the goods to fight for the title next season? Read more: Max Verstappen’s 2019 F1 Season in Stats.
VERSTAPPEN IN 2020
Of 2020’s regular drivers, only Lance Stroll completed fewer laps than Max Verstappen. The Dutchman may have finished only twelve races this year but when he did finish, he was almost always on the podium. His sixth place in the Turkish Grand Prix – a race which he could have won if not for spinning when attempting to pass Sergio Perez – is the only time he finished in a non-podium position this year. More impressive still, of the 795 laps which he raced this year, only 95 were not spent inside the top three positions.
Verstappen secured Red Bull’s only two wins this year, with victories in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Red Bull were not a consistent challenger to Mercedes in 2020, but Verstappen’s consistent podium finishes meant that he did get close to beating Valtteri Bottas for second place in the Drivers’ Championship, eventually ending up only nine points away from the Finn’s total.
Verstappen’s qualifying pace remained impressive too, with him failing to qualify in the top three on only three occasions. On average, he had a two tenth advantage per sector over Alex Albon in qualifying this year. It will be very interesting to see by how much Sergio Perez can close that gap in their first year as team-mates in 2021. Read more: Max Verstappen’s 2020 F1 Season In Stats.
MAX VERSTAPPEN’S F1 RECORD
|Year||Team||Final Position||Points Scored||Wins||Poles||Podiums|
|2016||Toro Rosso / Red Bull||5th||204||1||0||7|