Max: Parents didn’t influence me to be a racing driver

Date published: October 30 2021 - Michelle Foster

Max and Jos Verstappen. Russia September 2020

Jos Verstappen told Max Verstappen “no” when the Dutchman, as a four-year-old, phoned his racer father to ask if he could start go-karting.

Thankfully for Formula 1 fans, six months later Jos changed his mind.

As his father’s Formula 1 career ground to a halt in 2003, the double podium winner bidding farewell to the sport after a point-less final season with Minardi, his son’s racing career was just beginning.

Max, like many of his rivals on today’s grid, began karting at a young age before testing a single-seater car in 2013.

His astronomic rise saw him drive a Formula 1 two years later before officially becoming a grand prix driver a year later, placed at Toro Rosso by Red Bull.

The rest, as they say, is history but, for a brief moment in time, it almost didn’t happen with Jos initially balking at the idea of his son karting at just four years of age.

“It was actually all my decision,” Max said in an interview with The Gentleman’s Journal.

“After going to the go-kart track and seeing a younger kid driving around, I called my dad, who was in Canada for F1 at the time, and I said I wanted to drive.

“Initially, he said no. He wanted me to wait two more years, but I did start half a year later, when I was four and a half, in go-karts.

“I didn’t think about my age to be honest. I always drove in categories where I was the youngest.

“I was always racing against guys who were two to three years older, or even more.

“Especially my final year in go-karting. I was 16 and I was racing against people in their late 20s and even 35-year-old guys.

“They were paid by the factories to stay in go-karting.

“So, I didn’t feel out of my comfort zone when I started in F1. I was like, well, I’m used to this.

 

“Of course, I hadn’t done Formula 1 level racing before, but karting is kind of like it but in go-karts.

“I just never really thought about it – I was just very happy to be there and to try and get the best results.”

20 years after first racing a kart, Verstappen is fighting for his first F1 World title, the Red Bull driver leading Lewis Hamilton by 12 points in the standings with five races to go.