It turns out that a pit stop which was never meant to be at the 2016 United States GP is the biggest F1 ‘oops’ moment for Max Verstappen.
2016 was only Verstappen’s second campaign in Formula 1, but already it was his first as a Red Bull driver having been called up from Toro Rosso in time for the Spanish Grand Prix that year, a debut Red Bull race which he won.
There was no such achievement for Verstappen later that year in Austin though, the Dutchman dropping out of the race with a gearbox issue, but as it turned out, that is certainly not where the drama started for Verstappen.
That is because earlier in the race, he made an error which to this day, he still looks back on as the most embarrassing of his Formula 1 career.
“I know exactly,” he began, as per Motorsport.com, when asked to share his most embarrassing F1 moment.
“It was in 2016, in Austin, where I was in fifth position maybe, it doesn’t matter too much, really, because there was very little gap to the drivers who were in third and fourth.
“My engineer was like, ‘push now, push now’, and that makes you think you’re going to stop on that lap, so that’s why I increased the speed. I was doing the lap in Austin, and on the last two fast corners it was going all right, so I went to the pit-lane.
“I did the turn and I realised that I was never really called to pit. They didn’t tell me to stop, they never did, and at that point it was like, ‘oh, God, what did I just do!’
“It was like, ‘guys, I’m in the pit-lane, I’m coming in, I’m coming in!’, and at that moment you see all the mechanics running with the tyres and, of course, the stop was eight or ten seconds. I still think it was a very quick stop.
“After the stop you see that it’s something that didn’t make sense, but after three laps my gearbox broke and I had to retire. Imagine if nothing had happened!”
After that, it was time for Verstappen to face the music with Red Bull’s advisor and driver programme boss Helmut Marko, who is not often known for his words of comfort.
But Verstappen knows the key to avoiding his wrath, which is simply to admit that he made a mistake, rather than breaking out the book of excuses.
“After the race I had some conversations with Marko,” said Verstappen. “I told him ‘I messed up’, just like that, I made a mistake, but what he likes is when you tell him straight away that you failed, he appreciates it, he hates it when a person starts making excuses.
“If he asks you why you were slow or something like that, he prefers you to tell him you made mistakes.”
Very little embarrassment for Max Verstappen these days
Fortunately for Verstappen, his career has only gone from strength to strength since then, the Dutchman winning his first World title in 2021 and backing that up with a dominant title defence in 2022.
And his rampant start to F1 2023, involving two victories, two poles and a P2 finish, has set a daunting challenge for anyone wanting to deny the Red Bull star a third crown.
With Formula 1 now in a break which stretches for much of April, the likes of Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari will be hard at work as they look to put together a string of upgrades for the Europe-dominated run of the campaign which could perhaps bring Red Bull and Verstappen back within reach.