Max Verstappen addresses theory he was ‘forced’ into racing career by parents

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen next to Formula 1 logo during 2024 Bahrain testing.

Max Verstappen next to Formula 1 logo.

Put to Max Verstappen that the widely-held belief is that he was forced into his career by his racing driver parents, Verstappen told the “good story” of how it was actually him who got the ball rolling.

Verstappen has made a habit of re-writing the F1 history books, bursting onto the scene back in 2015 at only 17 years old and skip forward to 2023, his third World Championship-winning year, he was shattering records again with 19 grand prix victories, including a 10-race winning streak.

It is well-known that Verstappen was sculpted into a racer by his father Jos, an F1 driver in his own right between 1994-2003, while his mother Sophie Kumpen was also a strong competitor on the karting scene, though the want to go racing came from Verstappen himself.

Max Verstappen: ‘Very important parents do not force anything’

In an interview with M4 Sport, Verstappen said his desire to race started when he was at a track where Jos was racing, and saw a child younger than himself in a go-kart. After lots of pleading, Jos finally agreed to buy a kart for Max.

“That’s a good story!” Verstappen began when it was put to him that he wanted to start racing while “most people think, ‘Max was told to be a racer’.

“At the time I saw a kid younger than me driving. He was three, I was four. I was at the track with my mother because my father was racing. I told her I wanted to race a go-kart too!

“She called my dad, who said no, and asked me to wait until I was six. But I didn’t budge, and six months later my mother finally convinced my father to buy me a go-kart.

“I think it’s very important that parents don’t force anything on you. In general, it’s good for a child to play sports, but it’s up to them to choose what they want to do. That’s what happened to me. If the parents’ will prevails, the child may not enjoy it and, as a professional, may not appreciate what he does enough.”

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It is common knowledge that Jos was tough on his son to prepare him for his F1 career, aiming to ensure that his own career mistakes were not repeated.

And Verstappen believes this “very professional” approach has served him extremely well for the ultra-successful career he has now established.

“My dad gave me a lot of advice when I was very young,” he said.

“He taught me from his own experience, so my preparation and testing was very professional. Plus, he already knew what was needed for Formula 1, so I was able to learn the basics as a child. That helped me a lot!

“What also helped a lot was that my father knew what he did right and wrong. He tried to use that experience to make me an even better racer.

“Learn from his mistakes, build on the positives.”

Verstappen admits that the hard and intense way he learnt his trade under Jos’  guidance “wouldn’t have worked for everyone”, but returned to explaining how beneficial it was for himself.

Asked if he thanks his father for his commitment considering the success he has now achieved in F1, Verstappen replied: “Of course!

“All kids grow up differently, they have different personalities, so his way wouldn’t have worked for everyone. But for me, it was what I needed! Of course, sometimes I did question why he had to be so serious and strict all the time. But now I am grateful for it.

“Because of my training as a kid, what came later, F3, the first years in Formula 1, couldn’t surprise me anymore. I had no difficulty fitting into a top sporting field, because from karting to F3 I had the toughest but also the best possible upbringing. I was fully mentally prepared for Formula 1 and the difficulties.”

Verstappen, armed with the RB20, heads into F1 2024 as firm favourite to add a fourth successive World title to his CV.

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