He might have won back-to-back Formula One drivers’ championships, but there is absolutely no indication that Max Verstappen is about take his foot off the gas.
The 25-year-old has had an accelerated start to his young F1 career and it has become a strange sight to not see Verstappen atop the podium.
“It’s what you want to do, what you want to achieve. This is why I love the sport. I love, of course, driving to the limit, but I love winning,” Verstappen tells CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. “I like to be in front. I like to be in front of everyone else, and that’s what I enjoy the most.”
Verstappen currently sits fifth on the all-time F1 win list with 42 victories – 11 behind former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel in third.
Red Bull has dominated the 2023 season and, with 13 races left on this year’s calendar, it would take a brave person to bet against Verstappen overtaking Vettel by the end of the campaign.
The team has won the first nine races of the season – Verstappen winning seven and teammate Sergio Pérez taking the other two – and fans have already begun to discuss the possibilities of an unbeaten campaign.
“I think we can win this weekend. Going unbeaten a whole season will be very difficult,” Verstappen admits.
“I always believe in myself. I think that’s important, that’s the most important, and I believe in the car. I believe in the team, I believe in all the people involved, you know, building this car. So I think we have a good shot at it.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is also hungry for more wins despite the team’s unrelenting start to the season.
“It’s never feet up and easy street,” Horner tells CNN Sport. “It’s been an incredible start to the year for us. But of course, you know, it’s all about now keeping that momentum going.”
The team has matched its best ever start to a season, which Horner says is “phenomenal.”
“The team is operating at such a high level, confidence is high, but you can’t afford complacency to creep in at any point,” said the Red Bull boss.
‘There’s much more to life than only Formula One’
If Red Bull does go unbeaten this season, it would surely help to put the Dutchman in the bracket of the greatest drivers of all time, but Verstappen insists that his legacy is not at the forefront of his mind.
“I’m here at the moment trying to achieve everything I can, and I try to, of course, give everything I have to that. But I also know there’s much more to life than only Formula One,” he says.
“Once I’m done with Formula One, I want to just enjoy my life and do other things and then what happened in Formula One is done,” he adds. “It’s not something probably I will look back to when I’m 60 or 70.”
Verstappen’s post-racing plans could help explain how he attacks each race with a straightforward approach.
The driver is often heard on race radio during Grands Prix having somewhat heated back and forths with his team and his blunt, direct responses have become a customary part of F1. Verstappen says this is born out of his junior racing career.
His father, Jos Verstappen, was a successful racing driver in his own right and became the first ever Dutchman to secure an F1 podium finish.
The two-time F1 champion says his dad instilled in him a straightforward way of saying things, which has allowed Verstappen to give and take tough feedback.
“I say how it is and what I think. If it’s good, It’s good. But when I think it’s bad, I also say that,” said Verstappen.
Horner admits that Verstappen has other goals he would like to achieve in his motorsport career, but insists that while his driver races in F1, there are endless opportunities for success.
“I think at such a young age, if we can continue to provide him with a competitive car, who knows what he can go on to achieve?” outlines Horner. “With somebody so young, you’d hope that there is some time still to come.”
Away from the track, sim racing is one of Verstappen’s biggest passions and a place he can see himself thriving. The F1 driver sees a big future for the virtual racing esport.
“I maybe want to have my own race team. I already, of course, started that a bit with Verstappen.com racing,” the 25-year-old explains. “So hopefully, in a few years’ time, we could see something coming out of that.”
While Verstappen can see himself in a leadership role when it comes to sim racing, he has definitively ruled out becoming a future F1 team principal.
“It’s a lot of traveling, and you’ve already done that as a driver,” he says. “So I definitely don’t want to do it again as a team principal.”