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Max Verstappen, the next Formula One world champion?

While his age has been widely discussed around the paddock, his mature behavior and unique driving style have taken away all the skepticism about the eighteen-year-old Max Verstappen. After an outstanding first season with his team Scuderia Toro Rosso, Max’ performances seem to transcend every prior prediction made about the young star-in-the-making. Today the question is not whether Max will become a world-champion, but rather when.

It was only 12 years ago when Max Verstappen was playing around in the paddock during the race weekends. Back then, the name Verstappen on the car was meant for Max’ father Jos while father and Formula 1 legend Jos Verstappen was out there on the track. As a kid who just started karting back then, Max used everything he could find to race his own imaginary Grand Prix. The electric Jeeps he used to do so would not deliver him the World Title, but it definitely showed his passion and talent for racing.

Max’ talent was spotted when he replaced his toy Jeeps with real go-karts. In 2005 during his first year of go-karting at his beloved circuit in Gent, he secured his first championship. Father Jos found that Max had claimed his racing territory when he saw his son winning every race during the 2006 season, and winning 124 out of 144 total races during his national karting career.

Jos was right when he thought that he would have a future in the F1 racetracks, as Max had a phenomenal first season in F1. This was just as phenomenal as the way “the youngest ever F1 driver” handled still today) all the criticism of experts and colleagues. Not surprisingly, everyone remembers the infamous criticism on Max after crashing into the back of Grosjean in Monaco, sending Max straight into the wall at high speed due to the front left suspension collapsing. William’s driver Felipe Massa’s criticism stood out the most, as he blamed the incident on Verstappen’s lack of experience. “What he did was wrong, and it needs to be penalized”, Massa responded during the first following press conference. Max responded with the legendary words “You should review the race of last year, and see what happened there”. This brass reaction was pointed at the very similar crash in Canada 2014, where Massa ran straight in the back of Sergio Perez while braking for the first corner on the final lap.

Showing such maturity and rationality, especially after being criticized by one of the biggest F1 drivers of all time after the most prestigious Grand Prix of the year, shows the other very talented side of the Flying Dutchman. For example, Mercedes AMG Petronas teamboss Toto Wolff said during an interview with RaceXpress, a Dutch website for race fans, that he was charmed by the refreshing way Max handles the press. Mercedes has been the strongest team for the last two years by a mile, and it is no surprise that Toto wants to have the young wonder child on his team as soon as possible. There is competition, as also Ferrari, the nearest competitor for Mercedes, wants to contract Max.

F1 pundits Eddie Jordan and David Coulthart, who now commentate the F1 action for the BBC, have analyzed the Dutch Formula One rookie in great detail. This is because Max amazed everyone with his fanaticism and incredible courage. This courage and fanaticism became obvious in many actions throughout his entire first season. His passing move during the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Sauber driver Felipe Nasr summarizes Max’ drive and passion perfectly, as Max situated himself on the outside line through Blanchimont. Blanchimont is a very high speed double left handed corner on the Belgian racetrack, where overtaking was never considered to be possible. Max’ courage showed, however, that going around the outside of the car in front with over 200 miles per hour, while situated on the curbstones with two wheels, is a perfect possibility to pass your opponent. This was one of the reasons why Eddie Jordan compared Max to race legends, such as Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna, who also showed their eager to win and to surpass each and every car ahead.

In the modern F1 era, where your position in the championship is reflected by which car you are driving, instead of individual skills, the Formula One sport needs someone like Max. A young man who brings passion and excitement back to the track, just like legends Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna used to. Mad Max has shown that one of his great skills is surpassing the opponent. He has repeatedly shown this in breathtaking ways, such as with Marcus Ericsson in China, Sergio Perez in Brazil, and Valtteri Bottas in Monaco. Off course, Max was still karting two years ago, and it is obvious that he has brought some kart moves to the F1 races. The master of overtaking has clearly shown his signature skill. During the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix two weeks ago, Max made a quick move to the inside in turn 7 on both the Sauber drivers, which brought Max in front of the Saubers. This kart move shows his courage with the million dollar cars, which brings back the excitement to the sport.

Also former Formula One driver Johnny Herbert speaks positive about Max’ future in the highest racing division, when he talks with the big racing community GPUpdate. Herbert is “glad to see that all the skepticism about Max’s age and lack of experience in car racing turned out to be false”. Also, Max will only become stronger during his career, according to Sky Sports analyst Johnny Herbert. Whether Max will ever become a world champion is not sure for Herbert, as he says that “he can always be at the wrong team at the wrong time”. “But only looking at his talent, he will certainly be”.

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