Motorsports A-Z: Max Verstappen, ‘P’ is for perfectly normal.
He’s dangerous. He’s dirty. He’s humorless. He has a death wish. He’s a poor sport.
And he is the best driver of his generation.
This story originally appeared in Volume 13 of Road & Track.
Yes, those are accusations leveled at reigning world champ Max Verstappen. But they could easily be cataloging the nastier bits of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, both of whom were accused of all of that and more.
Verstappen is, for lack of a better term, normal. Or at least he is normal in the rarefied context of generational talents. Consumed by winning, they push, sometimes too far for pleasant company. Verstappen doesn’t feel compelled to engage in false modesty. Under his flat-brimmed cap, he stares stone-faced or scowls. When he smiles, you get the sense he might be savoring a moment of schadenfreude. I’m betting his jokes are never funny. He refuses to take part in Drive to Survive, the Netflix series that made the sport palatable to so-called casual fans. He shoved Esteban Ocon after a race (honestly, Ocon earned the shove). Verstappen does not use his fame to champion social causes. Publicly, he speaks only of racing.
He is the single-minded, fiercely talented, unapologetic result of growing up in a crucible of racing. One stoked by his father, Jos, a one-time F1 driver of more moderate success. At 25, Max is still young but aware that every driver has a sell-by date. He is impatient for the success he knows is his. And arriving on the scene (at 17 years old) as part of the Red Bull team during the heart of the Mercedes era, he didn’t achieve the level of immediate domination of, say, Sebastian Vettel.
Given the cutthroat circumstances of their existence, should we really expect racing drivers to be cuddly creatures? Verstappen isn’t an asshole; he’s a racer.
Daniel Pund Executive Editor Daniel Pund is a veteran car reviewer, feature writer, and occasional bomb thrower.