How Max Verstappen’s inherited traits from parents made for ‘perfect combination’

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen and Jos Verstappen celebrate title success. Austin, October 2022.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and father Jos Verstappen celebrate title success. Austin, October 2022.

A new book written about Max Verstappen has shed some light on how the Dutch driver inherited the perfect blend of characteristics from his parents.

Verstappen’s back story as a driver refined under the watchful eye of ’90s and early 2000s F1 racer Jos is well-documented, but a new book set for publishing about the soon-to-be three-time World Champion has explored the traits he inherited from both of his parents.

While Verstappen’s talents were moulded under Jos during his karting career, the very different personalities of his parents led to a ‘perfect combination’ of genetic traits that have created one of the strongest F1 drivers in the history of the sport.

Union of Jos Verstappen and Sophie Kumpen ‘a perfect combination’

While now long-separated, the marriage of Jos Verstappen and former karting Champion Sophie Kumpen resulted in the birth of Max in 1997, and an upcoming biography about Verstappen has shed more light on the circumstances that allowed the young child racer to flourish.

Set for publishing in early September, F1 journalist Mark Hughes has written ‘Unstoppable: The Ultimate biography of Max Verstappen’ and explored the topic with some of the key players involved.

“In her placid character as well as her moneyed background, Sophie was a very different character to Jos,” Hughes wrote.

“Their marriage was never likely to last. Some idea of just how bad things got can be gained from the fact that Sophie had a restraining order placed upon Jos in the wake of their breakup in 2008.

“Yet from a racing perspective, the union was a perfect combination for Max. Perhaps this, even more than the raw material of racing talent, is his crucial genetic inheritance: the combination of Jos’s fire and Sophie’s calm. After the break-up, Max stayed with Jos — not least because they were by then locked together in their karting endeavours — while Max’s sister, Victoria, stayed with Sophie. Max has remained close to them all, a loving son and brother.”

The parent combination and their very different personalities is something that has also been observed by Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko.

“Jos is ‘bang’, straight down the middle,” Marko says,” continues Hughes in his book.

“Not thinking, all instinct. Max is more thoughtful. His character and education are different to Jos. His character is like his mother’s.”

“Marko’s view is backed by the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, who competed against Sophie in karts. ‘She was a smart racer and I think Max has got the aggression of his dad and the racing head of his mum,’ Horner says. ‘She was a formidable racer in her time. So Max got a blend and you see both of those skills at different moments.’ recommends

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How Jos Verstappen’s aggressive streak was refined in Max

Hughes went on to detail how Verstappen senior, who had been brought up by his family to have a “tough, aggressive streak” which helped him reach F1, but failed to help him during his career due to his “less than full understanding of what was required to succeed at the ultimate level of the sport.

“The brute force he had shown in mastering the technicalities of karting needed to be combined with a more delicate touch to understand the art and skill of personal dynamics in something as big and complex as a top F1 team. For someone of Jos’s background and personality, it was just too big an ask.

“If Jos had a form of impostor syndrome, Max was never going to suffer the same fate. Immersed in motor racing from birth, he was four when he was given his first kart and soon wanted to go racing. If Jos imagined Max’s campaigning would stop when he had a kart to play with, he was mistaken. He wanted to be on track at every opportunity.

“Max was still too young to race but he could drive for fun at the track. He did so in company with some slightly older boys, some of whom were already racing. As soon as Max understood that he was already quicker than most of them, he felt he was being dealt a severe injustice by the regulations which stipulated a minimum racing age of seven.”

Hughes shed light on how it wasn’t Jos who applied the pressure to become a professional racing driver, it was the young Max.

“The impetus came wholly from Max,” he said.

“The manner in which he would race would be entirely dictated by Jos — and, unsurprisingly, it was extreme. But Max was unrelenting in his push.

“Around this time, Jos had the big conversation with his son. The “If we are doing this we are doing it seriously” conversation. How much a seven-year-old can absorb the ramifications of that we cannot know. But he’d quickly find out.

“Jos insisted that Max should know about the engineering side as well as driving. Max recalled: “I’d see him take everything off the go-kart, then put it back on, so I’d understand the mechanics behind it. He wanted me to understand that it’s not that we’re here for fun. Because we are working toward trying to reach the top.”

  • UNSTOPPABLE: The Ultimate Biography of Max Verstappen by Mark Hughes is published on September 7 by Headline at £22

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