Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen enters 2022 as the reigning World Champion, having clinched his first F1 title in 2021 following a tense season-long battle. The Red Bull driver will be looking to repeat his success for a second year in a row.
Biography of F1 driver Max Verstappen
Despite his young age, Max Verstappen has become a firm fixture on the F1 grid since making his debut for Toro Rosso back in 2015.
Son of former Dutch F1 driver Jos Verstappen, young Max was seemingly destined for great things after making the jump to single-seaters back in 2013.
But how has the youngster made his way through the ranks so quickly, becoming the focal point of Red Bull’s attempts to once again capture F1 glory? Here is everything you need to know about Max Verstappen.
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Verstappen’s early career
The son of Jos Verstappen – the first Dutch driver to finish on an F1 podium – and kart racer Sophie Kumpen, Max began his karting career at the age of four, competing in the Mini Junior championship in his home province of Limburg, Belgium.
From there Max made his way through the ranks, competing on the international karting scene in 2010. He finished second in the KF3 World Cup behind Alexander Albon, the British-Thai driver who would eventually become his teammate at Red Bull.
Verstappen’s impressive karting career helped to propel him to bigger and better things, making the switch to single-seaters in 2013. His first experience in a racing car came with Dutch team Manor MP Motorsport at the Pembrey Circuit in Wales. A year later, Max made his racing debut at the Florida Winter Series, winning his first event at just his second race weekend at the Palm Beach International Raceway.
After competing in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for Van Amersfoort Racing and finishing his maiden season in third, Red Bull came calling.
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Red Bull Junior Team and youngest full-time driver
Verstappen joined the Red Bull Junior Team after testing a Formula Renault 3.5 car in August 2014, turning down an offer from Mercedes in the process.
It didn’t take long for the Dutchman to get behind the wheel of an F1 car as he took part in the first free practice session at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, becoming the youngster driver to participate in a Grand Prix weekend. He then became the youngest driver to start a World Championship race, breaking Jaime Alguersuari’s existing record by almost two years after competing in the 2015 Australian Grand Prix at the age of 17 years and 166 days.
Verstappen was forced to retire from a points-scoring position due to an engine failure, however he scored his first points at the following race in Malaysia thanks to a seventh-place finish. That made him the youngster driver to score World Championship points at the age of 17 years and 180 days.
A crash with Romain Grosjean at the Monaco Grand Prix saw the Dutchman handed a five-place grid penalty, while also being branded “dangerous” by Williams driver Felipe Massa. Nevertheless, Verstappen didn’t let that get to him, achieving his highest finish – fourth – at the United States Grand Prix.
At the FIA Prize Giving Ceremony, Verstappen received three awards: Rookie of the Year, Personality of the Year and Action of the Year for his pass on Felipe Nasr around the outside of Blanchimont at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Called up to Red Bull
Partnered by Carlos Sainz for his second season with Toro Rosso, Verstappen completed four races for the team before Red Bull came calling. Not satisfied with the performance of Daniil Kvyat, the Milton Keynes-based outfit promoted Verstappen while sending the Russian to Toro Rosso to fill his vacant seat for the Spanish Grand Prix.
What followed was something out of a Hollywood script, as Verstappen qualified fourth in his first race for Red Bull. Once the race got underway, he quickly found himself in second behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo after Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crashed out of the race.
Thanks to a two-stop strategy compared to the three of Ricciardo, Verstappen went on to claim his first F1 victory, becoming the youngest driver to win an F1 Grand Prix at the age of 18 years and 228 days.
Verstappen continued to impress, finishing on the podium another six times that season, including a sparkling drive at the Brazilian Grand Prix. In a race affected by rain, he found himself down in 16th place with just 15 laps remaining, but ended the race in third. The effort prompted Team Principal Christian Horner to call it “one of the best drives I’ve seen in Formula 1”.
Despite spending the first four races with Toro Rosso, Verstappen ended the season fifth in the Drivers’ Championship – just eight points back on four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
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Second season syndrome at Red Bull
Things didn’t go as smoothly in 2017, as Verstappen suffered seven retirements from the first 14 races. While four were due to mechanical issues, the other three came after first-lap collisions.
Verstappen’s fortunes improved from there, taking his second career victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix after overtaking Hamilton early in the race.
A third win came at the Mexican Grand Prix after getting past Vettel in the early stages, with Verstappen ending the season sixth in the Drivers’ standings.
Fast, but prone to crashes
The start of the 2018 F1 season saw Verstappen involved in incidents at each of the opening six races, which included run-ins with the likes of Hamilton and Vettel.
Perhaps the most eye-catching incident came in Azerbaijan as the Dutchman battled with teammate Ricciardo. The two swapped positions several times over the course of the race, before the Australian ran into the back of Verstappen’s car after some aggressive defending by the Dutchman.
Both drivers retired and were reprimanded by the stewards, with Verstappen bouncing back to claim his first podium of the season in Spain despite running into the rear of Lance Stroll’s car during the Virtual Safety Car and suffering minor front wing damage.
Monaco saw Verstappen crash at the end of Free Practice 3 in an incident that was similar to the one he had two years earlier in Monte Carlo. Red Bull were unable to fix his car in time for qualifying, forcing him to start from the back of the grid. While his ninth-place finish was impressive, teammate Ricciardo won from pole, prompting both Horner and Helmut Marko to publicly reprimand Verstappen for his mistakes.
After podium finishes in Canada and France, Verstappen took victory at Red Bull’s home track in Austria. After some disappointing results in Britain, Germany and Hungary, the second half of the season went much better for Verstappen. He finished on the podium seven times from the final nine races.
He missed out on becoming the youngest pole-sitter in F1 history in Mexico, with Ricciardo beating him by just 0.026 seconds. However, Verstappen got the last laugh in the race, taking victory.
A second consecutive win looked to be in the cards in Brazil, but a collision with Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who was trying to unlap himself on faster tyres, ended those dreams. Verstappen finished second behind Hamilton, but then got into an argument with the Frenchman after the race, pushing him and earning two days of public service from the FIA.
Verstappen ended the season fourth in the championship with two wins, 11 podiums and 249 points.
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Verstappen leads Honda revival
Verstappen would be powered by works Honda engines for the 2019 season after Red Bull made the switch from Renault, while Pierre Gasly became his new teammate following Ricciardo’s departure for Renault.
A third-place finish in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix meant a first podium finish for a Honda-powered driver since the 2008 British GP. A second podium came in Spain, though Verstappen couldn’t add a third in Monaco. Although he finished second on track, a five-second penalty for being released into the path of Valtteri Bottas in the pits saw him demoted to fourth.
Victory finally came at the ninth race of the season in Austria. Verstappen started poorly from second, dropping all the way down to eighth. A controversial late pass on Charles Leclerc with three laps to go secured him victory, a first for Honda since the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Verstappen took a second victory at the wet and chaotic German Grand Prix. Despite another slow start, he moved into the lead midway through the race when Hamilton went off track. The circuit began to dry from there, with Verstappen winning ahead of Vettel and Kvyat. Verstappen followed that up with his first career pole at the following race in Hungary, though he couldn’t fend off a late charge by Hamilton and eventually had to settle for second.
Red Bull made a driver change prior to the Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Gasly, who was demoted back to Toro Rosso, with Albon. Verstappen qualified first in Mexico, only to be handed a grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags after a Bottas crash.
Verstappen took the chequered flag in Brazil in a chaotic race that saw him pass Hamilton for the lead on two occasions, before ending the campaign with a second-place finish in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen ended the season third in the championship with 278 points, his highest finish.
Committed to Red Bull for the long-term
After signing a contract that would keep him at Red Bull until the end of 2023, Verstappen secured three consecutive podium finishes after retiring from the 2020 season-opener in Austria.
His first win of the season came at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, despite starting fourth, which was followed by a second and third in Spain and Belgium respectively.
Retirements at Monza and Mugello came soon after, but Verstappen managed to finish on the podium at five of the final nine races, including victory at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As had been the case in 2019, Verstappen again ended the year in P3 in the World Championship, this time with 214 points to his name.
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Championship success in dramatic style
Red Bull and Verstappen looked stronger in their ability to take the battle to Mercedes during the opening stages of the 2021 F1 season. Verstappen clinched his first win of the year at only the second event on the calendar, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The Dutchman finally changed his fortunes at Monaco by winning at the street circuit for the first time. After a DNF followed at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix due to a tyre failure, Verstappen went on a three-race winning streak in France and Austria.
His title battle with Lewis Hamilton then took a controversial turn at the British Grand Prix, with the pair colliding on the opening lap. Verstappen was subsequently taken to hospital for checks, whilst Hamilton received a 10-second time penalty but went on to win the race.
Verstappen later stated that he felt Hamilton’s celebrations after his victory were “unsportsmanlike”.
At the next event in Hungary, Verstappen suffered damage after being hit by Valtteri Bottas at the first corner, but managed to finish ninth. He bounced back at his home race, the Dutch Grand Prix, a few weeks later, claiming pole position and victory despite later admitting that he had felt a lot of pressure.
One week later in September, another collision with Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix put them both out of the race, and Verstappen didn’t win again until the United States Grand Prix in October.
Another win came in Mexico, but Mercedes appeared to have stronger pace in the latter stages of the year, resulting in Hamilton eating into Verstappen’s championship lead by winning three races in a row before the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Both drivers arrived at the Yas Marina Circuit on equal points, meaning that it was all to play for on race day. Whilst Verstappen started from pole, Hamilton took the lead and looked to be on course to claim victory.
This all changed, though, when a late Safety Car call enabled Verstappen to pit for a fresh set of Soft tyres and catch Hamilton – running on older Hard tyres – on the last lap. The Red Bull driver took the race win, and with it the World Championship.
It might have been a controversial ending to the season, but Verstappen was obviously thrilled, and has stated that gaining his first title in the sport represents the “final achievement” he was after.
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Title defence in 2022
For the first time in his Formula 1 career, Verstappen begins a season as the reigning World Champion, and has opted to run the number 1 on his car instead of his usual 33.
With a wave of new regulations coming into effect in 2022, there is a degree of uncertainty about who will come out on top. Verstappen, though, will be hoping to continue his success for a second year and again be in contention for the title.
Verstappen is thought to be the second-highest paid driver in F1, with his contract estimated to be worth $25 million a year.
When he isn’t competing against the likes of Hamilton, Verstappen enjoys sim racing in his spare time, and credits this with helping him when it comes to actually being on the track.