‘Max Verstappen always had incredible talent, but he was a bully’

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen stands on his RB19 and celebrates. Canada June 2023

Max Verstappen stands on his RB19 and celebrates after taking Red Bull's 100th F1 race win. Canada June 2023

Max Verstappen may have been an incredible talent when he first lined up on the F1 grid, but according to Italian journalist Leo Turrini, he was also a “bully”.

That, though, is a characteristic he has grown out of it.

Verstappen first lined up on the F1 grid back in 2015, the prolific talent taking a huge leap up from Formula 3 to Formula 1, and completely bypassing Formula 2.

Max Verstappen talented but ‘he was a bully to begin with’

It was a gamble that paid off for Red Bull as a year and bit into his Formula 1 career they promoted him to the senior team and he won his debut race for Red Bull Racing, the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

The performances, and results, have only improved from there with Verstappen on his way to a third successive Drivers’ title.

However, there have been lessons, if you will, along the way.

The driver was criticised by his rivals for dangerously moving under braking leading to a ban against drivers doing that, one that has since been lifted but only one move is permitted, while after the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix, he was ordered by the FIA to complete two days of public service for getting physical with Esteban Ocon.

In the ensuing years, there have been complaints from Charles Leclerc to Lewis Hamilton, but there have also been two – soon to be three – World titles as well as shattered records.

This year Verstappen is on course for a third title, most wins in a season, consecutive wins, and the earliest date for winning a title.

Italian journalist Turrini says that highlights the path the Dutchman has walked.

“Verstappen has matured over the years. He’s always had incredible talent, but he was a bully to begin with. Now, he’s almost perfect,” he said on his blog.

“Verstappen is an absolute phenomenon. To deny it is foolish.

“Everyone can have the ideas he wants about the character, but if one argues Max as a driver, well, he’s an expert.

“Verstappen is definitely stronger than [Sergio] Perez – as well as almost all of his competitors in the present.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 points all-time rankings: Where do Hamilton, Verstappen, and Alonso feature?

F1 records: The drivers with the longest points-scoring streaks in history

He went on to add that Verstappen is to Perez, his teammate today, as what Argentina’s Lionel Messi was to his compatriot Leandro Paredes, one from Barcelona FC, the other from Juventus.

“Verstappen is to Perez what Messi is to the former Juventus player Paredes,” he said.

As for Verstappen versus Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, “Verstappen is stronger than Leclerc because when he had a car from him he won the world championship.

“Leclerc has never had it, no one can say, for example, how it would hold up to the horrendous pressure of 2021.”

Read next: Lewis Hamilton snubbed with Verstappen and Alonso ‘head and shoulders above’