Abu Dhabi boos for Max Verstappen as Martin Brundle questions ‘vocal downer’

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen looks serious as he talks to media in Las Vegas.

Max Verstappen is already hot favourite to add to his title tally before 2024 has even started.

Sky F1’s Martin Brundle cannot understand why Max Verstappen is the “villain” for fans as boos returned in Abu Dhabi, though did feel the “downer” he put on the Las Vegas Grand Prix was uncalled for.

F1 2023 is now complete and Verstappen can look back proudly on his season of unprecedented dominance, having won a remarkable 19 of the 22 grands prix to take place.

He claimed his third World Championship with a tally of 575 points, more than double that of Red Bull team-mate and runner-up Sergio Perez.

Martin Brundle confused by Max Verstappen Las Vegas criticism

It is clear that for Verstappen it is all about the racing, which he does extremely well, with his dislike for the extracurricular activities brought out by F1’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

It was a race he ultimately won, but Verstappen called it “99 per cent show, one per cent sporting event” and broke out a damning football reference for the track, branding it “National League” level in comparison to the “Champions League” of Monaco.

And for Brundle, this degrading of the Las Vegas GP is an example of a rare Verstappen misstep in his all-conquering season.

“He had a very vocal downer on Las Vegas, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to express in that way, although he warmed up to the event on race day after yet another victory,” Brundle wrote in his Sky F1 column as he reflected on F1 2023.

“I like that Max speaks his mind and I’ve always found him very refreshing to interview, and also simply to chat to in the paddock.

“He’s very direct and honest, what you see is what you get, and he clearly doesn’t care all that much what others think. I can’t help but feel that a little more diplomacy and balance would be more fitting to the legacy he will leave, and after all, we are all only guardians of this great sport as we pass through.”

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Fan reaction to Max Verstappen confuses Martin Brundle

With Verstappen winning 19 grands prix and Red Bull 21 overall out of 22, it has understandably led to debate over how healthy such one-driver and team dominance is for Formula 1.

Unfortunately, that has led to booing directed at Verstappen from the stands at a few races, Brundle revealing that the same happened in Abu Dhabi when the drivers convened for their end-of-year photos.

Brundle detects a “villain” status for Verstappen among the fanbase, which he is not sure why it exists.

“I meet fans and read the feisty comments people like to amplify on X, saying what a boring season it was, presumably because one combination dominated,” Brundle stated.

“From my perspective I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed such a level of close racing, overtakes, and jeopardy through the entire field, which further closed as the season progressed.

“We saw it many times in qualifying if the established front runners and big guns weren’t fulfilling their potential and delivering the lap times, pretty much any driver on the grid could out-qualify and even out-race them in their midfield cars. We didn’t have a tail-end this year.

“Max didn’t get everything right, for example when the drivers walked out to the grid for the traditional end of season group photograph there were some boos as he emerged, as we’ve heard at some other tracks too.

“Of course, he was feisty and a little wild as a teenager when first racing in F1, but he sorted that out and is mostly a model of calm out on track now, and as fair as anybody else when it comes to hard racing. I don’t understand why he’s still seen as the villain, but the fans will make up their own minds.”

Verstappen will go searching for a fourth World Championship in F1 2024, which would put him level with former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel.

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