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Max Verstappen: World champion already considering life beyond F1

The 25-year-old Red Bull driver takes no prisoners on or off the track, frequently pushing his car to the limit, and has raced against other drivers, even within his own team.

But the Dutchman has something of a Kryptonite, admitting to CNN Sport’s Carolyn Manno at Red Bull’s season kick-off in New York last week that when it comes to nervousness, “little spiders don’t bother me, but like the big hairy ones… [and] snakes, I really do not like! Fortunately, where I live in Monaco, it’s not too bad.”
Unless his peers pull a prank on Verstappen, like slipping a snake into the cockpit, it’s hard to see the unflappable Dutchman not being in pole position to secure a third straight title this season.

The 2021 season marked his emergence as a bonafide superstar in the sport.

Admittedly, there was controversy surrounding his securing the 2021 championship with that last-lap restart at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, after arch-rival Lewis Hamilton looked assured of a record eighth world title, but the 2022 campaign was almost a procession.
Verstappen defended his crown in style, winning a record 15 races along the way, winning the title in October, becoming the fourth driver to win the world championship with four or more races remaining.

Verstappen isn’t one to pontificate about his accomplishments – “we want to keep winning … so anything less than that, of course, is a disappointment,” he points out in New York.

He also deflects any discussion of any rivalry with Hamilton – ‘it’s not something that feeds me necessarily’ – or his own team-mate Sergio Pérez, saying ‘we’re professional enough to get past these things’, a reference to the Dutchman . ignoring team orders to allow the 33-year-old Mexican through on the final 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 last year on the eve of the Austin Grand Prix at the 78 years old. .

Mateschitz’s death has clearly had an impact on Verstappen, who says “Austin has been a very difficult weekend for us, with the passing of Dietrich, basically the man who created everything for us… the only thing we could do this weekend was, of course, to try to win this race, which we luckily did.

“And then we won the builders’ award [Championship]so there are a lot of emotions running through your mind and in general for the team throughout this weekend.”

Verstappen and his father celebrate winning the F1 World Constructors' Championship on October 23, 2022 in Austin.

winning mentality

His father Jos, himself a former F1 driver, coached his son so much he said ‘Max was my life project’ and ‘I did more for Max’s career than my own career’ – not to mention to be an intrinsic reason his son became the sport’s youngest competitor at just 17 for Toro Rosso in 2015.

F1’s youngest points scorer then became its youngest race winner the following year on his Red Bull debut.

Senior Verstappen’s approach has not escaped the Red Bull star, who admits his desire to win stems from his father.

“I think that’s just in general, the mentality that we have in the family,” he notes. “How I grew up as a little kid and spent so much time with my dad going to all the racetracks. So I guess a lot of those things still have to do with how you were raised.”

Father and son will have three opportunities to discuss and dissect the upcoming season on American soil as F1 continues to make inroads in a crowded market.

This is largely propelled by the popularity of ‘Drive to Survive’, which Verstappen avoided last season due to concerns over how he was portrayed – he has since reversed his position and will be part of season five, which debuts later this month.

Verstappen acknowledges that the sport is having its moment in the United States.

“We are growing, the United States is a very big country,” he explains. “And I think that’s a very important market for the whole of F1 and I’m very excited, of course, to be racing at three different circuits.”

Verstappen seen during a photocall at Red Bull Racing's kit launch in London earlier this year.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix debut in November will bring even more glitz and glamor to the circuit, joining Miami and Austin among the 23 races on the 2023 calendar.

When asked what interests him most in Vegas, Verstappen replied that “it’s more just the craziness it brings – like everyone wants to go. Everyone expects a lot. And on my side , I just hope it’s going to be an exciting weekend.”

And yet, despite back-to-back titles, becoming the Netherlands’ first world champion in the process and claiming 35 Grand Prix victories in his eight years in the sport – enough for sixth place on the all-time list , with the legendary Ayrton Senna’s mark of 41 wins set to be surpassed this year – Verstappen is by no means certain of staying in F1.

It’s even on the record that he doesn’t see himself driving until he’s 40.

Spectators react as Verstappen drives past the Dutch Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Zandvoort on September 3, 2022.

When pushed on his reasoning, Verstappen explains that “the problem is that we travel so much and it becomes more and more … basically the question is, ‘Is it worth spending so much time away from family and friends chasing more success?

“And I mean, I’ve already achieved everything I wanted in Formula 1. But I know I have a contract until 2028. I’ll be 31. It’s still quite young, but as I I said, I also want to do different things in life.”

Whatever scares Verstappen, perhaps the only thing his teammates have to worry about is the fear that the world champion will change his mind about calling him a day sooner rather than later.

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