Max Verstappen lures us into the Red Bull Racing team truck somewhere on a site in Milton Keynes. While outside 30,000 race fans are nickel-and-dating at the fences for the demonstration event, where the driver will run his final laps in 2022, Verstappen is using the front cabin of the trailer to warm up between ‘show runs’. So no luxury today ‘hospitality’. The driver thinks it’s okay. He is in a good mood and as always up for a joke. Especially today because it’s officially his last day of work in 2022.
How happy are you about it?
“It is very nice that after a long and beautiful season there is a rest period. Enjoy doing nothing. This is also comfortable for your body. No stress for a while. We will go on holiday after Christmas, after which we can focus on next season.”
It starts again in two months. If China is replaced, a record 24 races will be completed next year.
“I’ve often expressed that it’s too much and the main reason I don’t want to continue doing this until I’m 40. Traveling a lot and stuff, it’s just not healthy. I still really like it now, but you have to give up a lot for that. It sounds crazy, because of course driving Formula 1 is a dream for many people, but it really is. You are very far away from home and from the people you love. There will a time when you’re done with it.”
You are now 25 and have a contract until 2028. You have sometimes said that it could just be over by then. Fans are seriously worried about it.
“But it’s really true. So when I’m done with it, I stop. It’s as simple as that. But for the same money, I still enjoy it, and I’ll continue for another year or two. As a Formula 1 driver, then, hi. I really want to keep driving, but then I want to do other things.”
If you stop, it will also be a big blow for Formula 1 in the Netherlands. Then it probably means the end of the Grand Prix in Zandvoort, and almost no one watches the races on TV anymore. A lot depends on you. Do you ever think about it?
“You know what I really hope? That as a racing driver I have been able to inspire and motivate the young Dutch generation in such a way that when I stop, maybe new talent will be ready. It used to be said, that it was impossible for the Dutch to get to Formula 1. That’s not true. If you hit the gas, it doesn’t matter where you come from. I hope that when I’m 31, there will be a new one ready.”
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(With a wink) You want children. You could also create that talent yourself a la Jos Verstappen and Sophie Kumpen…
“But he or she will not be ready for Formula 1 in six or seven years, haha. I definitely want kids, and if they want to race, that’s fine. I think I would do it differently than my father and I did it. I can’t see that at the moment. But it’s easy for me to talk because I don’t have children. Perhaps I will think very differently when that time comes. But the passion he had went very far. He did everything for me. Tuning of engines, preparation of karts. I can’t see myself doing that. In any case, I will not push my children to race. They have to want it themselves. And if you go all out with your son or daughter, then you can no longer drive in Formula 1 yourself, I think. You have to start laying the groundwork from the age of four. I will be there myself.”
Speaking of your father. He is now fully active again racing in a rather dangerous discipline. In recent times, there have certainly been a number of fatal incidents in rallying. Do you ever worry about him speeding down the narrow streets at 180 an hour?
“I always tell him to be careful. He always tells me that. Look, he’ll always do the best he can with all the risks involved. I say: it’s no longer necessary. You need not win. You can also just have fun if you take 1 percent less risk sometimes. There are relatively many accidents in rallying. You write off at least one car a year. The races he runs are a bit safer than some ran in the world championship, but still… I always follow him via live timing and then I’m happy every time he comes through, yes. also relieved? A little bit anyway.”
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It was your friend Kelly’s birthday recently. Social media showed her receiving a large bouquet of flowers in her hotel room in London. Sender was Max Verstappen. Are you that romantic?
“Sometimes you have to, haha.”
You wouldn’t share something like that on social media yourself.
“I just don’t feel the need to show my private life to the outside world. Kelly also does it much less than before. When I ever finish Formula 1, I can’t see myself writing much after that. I just don’t like it. Some people do nothing else all day, I’m busy with other things. For example, I spend quite a lot of time on my phone, but it’s more to organize things around my sim team (virtual racing, ed.). It also takes a lot of time, but because it is my passion, I really enjoy working on it.”
Looking back at the past year. What was the absolute highlight for you?
“Race-wise, it was the victory in Spa from the midfield. It was really amazing how everything came together for us there. Our car was perfect. Winning the World Cup was of course the highlight.”
Due to uncertainty about the scoring, after the race in Japan it was uncertain whether one had enough points to be sure of the world championship at that time. Did it take the shine off this unique moment?
“Not for me. When you ever finish and you look back, you don’t think about how you became a world champion. What matters is that you became one. The road doesn’t matter. My father and I always said it to each other: It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win’.