Drops fell on his forehead. No, it’s not a sweat of fear that Jos Verstappen plays tricks in the heat of Jeddah. The temperature reached 34 degrees in the late afternoon, before night fell and it cooled off a bit. But there is some tension with Verstappen Senior, whose son Max has the best cards to write the history of the sport by becoming the first-ever Dutchman to become the world champion in Formula 1. “Of course I want to see the conclusion here or next week in Abu Dhabi. Wouldn’t it be weird? If you watch it on TV.”
Capturing the eventual world title is the final link in a project that began nearly two decades ago: Jos Verstappen teaches his son Max the tricks of the trade and gradually discovers that the boy has exceptional talent. The rest is history and has been described many times.
After all these years as a father, how do you stand in the process of what happened?
“Of course I’ve known for a long time that Max has something special and he proved it from the start in Formula 1. But I couldn’t imagine he would do so well at such an exceptionally high level. Of course it makes me proud.”
Has this steep performance curve changed your attitude as a father?
“Yes. Over the years I have become more relaxed. At first I am still in doubt, but then you see that it is working fine, it has matured and everything is under control. This gives peace of mind.”
Has anything changed about the strong bond you always had with Max?
“Now he also has his own life, lives independently, and oftentimes sketches his own plan. Getting laid off sometimes hurts. It makes sense to me as a father. Max isn’t someone who communicates much anyway. Sometimes I think: Come on, get me involved more, Tell me a little more. On the other hand, it’s also her strength. I may not always like it, but it leads. Then you should leave it that way. Appreciation, I savor it anyway. I don’t need to hear it every day. I know what I did for her and Max He knows it too. I went all the way to give him everything and let him know the way I thought I should.”
Was there ever a moment when you thought: Now I can’t teach him anything anymore?
“What is learning? At first, Helmut Marko wanted me to be everywhere, to maintain control. But at the end of his first year at Red Bull I felt I had to take a step back.”
Do you regret anything?
“Not at all. I think Raymond Vermeulen (Editor) and Max and I make a perfect team. Here at Red Bull Racing we are in a good position. There were talks with Toto Wolff and I also thought we had a good relationship with him, but the real Toto has shown himself recently. There is no longer a click.”
Is he a bad loser?
“You can say that, yes. Mercedes of course has been a pioneer for years. Now they are cornered for the first time and you see another Toto. It’s a shame, but that’s how you get to know people.”
So there is no reason to move.
“No. It’s also about Helmut Marko. The three of us – Max, Raymond and me – are totally pressed with him. No nonsense, straight forward. We are the same in character. Sometimes it gets hard and we tell each other the truth. But Formula 1 is tough. Try To stick yourself in this world, in any area. We know what we want. And if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit, and vague talk is useless. But that’s not the case.”
Don’t you think about the future then?
“Sure, but we still have two years at Red Bull anyway. It becomes important how the new rules are interpreted and what that means for performance. But it feels good here and we have plenty of time.”
If you had to analyze Max’s season, what would your conclusions be?
“He did it perfectly, regardless of whether Max becomes world champion or not. I don’t think he can be blamed and he got the maximum result from all situations.”
Have you ever thought that Max’s effect would be this big? There is a real Max Mania.
“No, but I think the main reason is that Max is pure. He’s the same, he’s not made. That doesn’t always sound sympathetic, but you know what you get from Max.”
Besides the battle on the track between Max and Lewis Hamilton, there also appears to be a media battle going on.
“That’s how I feel, yeah. The English flock to Lewis en masse and trying to make a story out of everything. They often look for something that isn’t there. We’ve always been very open to the British press, but when you see things go out of context a few times, you think, no Cares. Fernando Alonso recently noted that Formula 1 is very British oriented and the press plays a major role in this. He has experienced this himself in the past. But Max doesn’t care. He’s drawing up his own plan.”
You are no longer at all races. Is this a conscious choice?
“Yeah. I deliberately took more distance. I also have kids at home and I also have a nice life off the track. And that’s not nice here, with all those restrictions since covid too. I loved it in the past, that comfort. A cup of coffee, catching up with friends. It’s been done.” Flattening everything through Corona measures, so I’m glad I don’t have to be everywhere anymore. Plus, Max calls every day and we always keep up with what’s going on.”
What are you talking about next?
“For the race, about situations and things that happen. Like in Brazil in terms of defending in overtaking Lewis. Then I say how I see it. I give my opinion on everything. Max will filter out what he can or cannot do with it.”
So Max is listening well?
“I don’t call that listening. That’s not the right word. We talk about it. He knows I’m not crazy. That’s the mutual trust that was built. As a kid, you always believed your dad was the best, strongest, and smartest. But a lot of things came true too.” Things you said. It makes him feel good and this relationship is very good.”
Does it hurt if Max still misses the title?
“It hurts for sure, but you can’t control everything yourself. Plus, Max did everything he could. And yes, Helmut Marko said it before: Max lost a lot of points through no fault of his own. Much more than Lewis. But you can’t change it anymore, so…”
Also read: F1 reporter saw Verstappen grow out of his diapers and cherish his birth announcement: He experienced it all with Max
“Year of Max” book about a great F1 season
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