Verstappen, the son of Dutch Formula One icon Jos, has made a name for himself in his own right. The 17-year-old drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso and is not only the youngest driver on the grid but one of the youngest drivers in the history of the sport.
The driver spoke to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone last week in a lengthy interview.
Describing himself as “extremely happy”, Verstappen said he had opportunities most others did not. “I am living my dream.. only 17 and can already practice my dream job: I am racing in Formula One! Unbelievable!”, he said. Ecclestone assured the youngster his laurels were well-deserved. He called Verstappen a “good, competitive racer.”
The young Dutchman said growing up around motorsport had a definite contribution to his career. He called his family “race-crazy”, and said his father Jos, who is the most successful F1 driver the Netherlands has ever produced, “taught me all I needed to know.” Both of Verstappen’s parents – Jos and ex-wife Sophie Kumpen are involved with motorsports – mum Sophie, who is Belgian, is a former kart driver herself.
Although the elder Verstappen has never won an F1 Championship title or a race, he is considered the most accomplished F1 driver from the country. He has wins across the A1 Grand Prix and Le Mans categories, however, and has won championship titles at Formula 3.
In conversation, the two referred to Spanish driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who has been having a significantly bad season this year. The 34-year-old has only completed two races this season, finishing both without points, and has retired from the rest. Both of Alonso’s championship titles came when he was driving for Renault (2005 and 2006), following which he moved to Ferrari, where he put in several stellar performances, finishing 2nd in the drivers’ championships on three occasions, with the title closely eluding him each time.
Verstappen stressed the importance of luck whilst mentioning Alonso, saying the Spaniard was “still one of the best drivers around”, but had not had luck on his side. “(he)...didn’t manage to win a title in five years with Ferrari and now with McLaren a title seems more elusive than ever right now. Being the best driver around is not enough: you also have to sit in the best car - otherwise misfortune sticks with you.” Ecclestone agreed, saying it was important to be “in the right place at the right time.”
When asked about what he would rather do, Verstappen said he would prefer a conversation with Ecclestone over “dinner with a gorgeous woman”, stressing that his career was more important to him than social activity.
The youngster also mentioned wanting more out of Formula One. In a sentiment echoed by several fans around the world, Verstappen said he wished Ecclestone could make the cars “faster and louder”. The issue has often been brought up by spectators and enthusiasts who feel that this has been a contributing factor to the sport’s dwindling audiences and consequently failing finances.
Both Ecclestone and Verstappen complained the sport had become ‘too technical’, and they wished to get back to the ‘old days’ of racing, and they hoped FIA regulations for 2017 would be a step towards that goal.