McNish sees Verstappen’s mentality changing in 2022

Max Verstappen raises his arm in celebration. Barcelona, May 2022.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen raises his arm in celebration after winning the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, May 2022.

Allan McNish believes Max Verstappen’s approach to racing in Formula 1 has changed considerably in 2022.

Verstappen is taking a more circumspect approach to his racing in 2022, according to Le Mans winner and ex-Formula 1 driver McNish.

The Scot appeared on the F1 Nation podcast after the Monaco Grand Prix, with he and host Natalie Pinkham having a brief chat with Verstappen’s mother, Sophie Kumpen, after the Dutch driver claimed third place on the podium to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to nine points over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Kumpen, a prodigious karter in her own right, spoke about how Verstappen winning his maiden title in 2021 has been a huge source of pride for her family.

“You’re so proud as a mom,” she said.

“It was a long way for us to become World Champion and we had to sacrifice a lot as a family. It’s the [biggest] achievement you can get as a driver.”

With Kumpen joking that Verstappen gets his fighting spirit from her side of the family, McNish pondered the question of nature versus nurture in Verstappen’s progression as a driver.

His upbringing and motorsport background is well known, with both Kumpen and his father, Jos Verstappen, playing critical roles in moulding the young Dutch driver into such a relentless competitor.

“What if you have nature and nurture?” McNish questioned. “Then you’ve a pretty dynamic duo. Certainly, Max comes from very good DNA.

“I would say not just necessarily the natural feel and talent, but also quite a spirited determination from mum and dad, and that is certainly flowing through.”

But McNish said Monaco was a clear indicator that Verstappen’s approach to racing has changed for 2022. The reigning World Champion was content to sit in third place and was clearly happy for his team-mate Sergio Perez as the Mexican driver kept Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz away from the top step of the podium.

“The one thing I saw with Max was someone that wasn’t necessarily attacking for the last tenth or the last overtake that we have seen before,” McNish said.

“Someone that realised ‘maybe I’m not quite quick enough this weekend to deliver a win’ and is thinking [about the] long game.”


Asked what might have triggered a change to Verstappen’s attacking approach, McNish suspected the weight of winning his maiden title is allowing Verstappen to race with a calmer head.

“It might be the person that’s just won a World Championship and knows he’s already got one in his pocket, so doesn’t necessarily have that little thing to prove,” he said.

“Not to everyone else, but very often to yourself. I certainly know from my point of view as a driver, it was proving it to myself as much as it was to proving it to anyone else.

“When he looked in the mirror at the end, after the restart, he had his main championship contender behind him.

“The person leading was obviously his team-mate, so from that perspective it was a reasonably protected position. I would say he was in a good position whichever way it was, because he was ahead of Charles Leclerc.”