F1: The 5 seasons of Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen during his career will be showered with a lot of adjectives, but one of the first words that comes to mind and will always hold true is - precocious. Having just turned 22, he is going to be the youngest to compete in a hundred Grands Prix. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as he started at just 17. This is uncommon in a sport that is exremely hard to break into, but was partly made possible because he came from a family of immense and varied sports pedigree. Dad Jos was an F1 driver (now his manager) drove for Benetton, Tyrrell, and Minardi among others in a career that spanned from 1994 to 2003. Mother Sophie Kumpen raced karts, uncle Anthony Kumpen is a NASCAR Euro champion and their father Robert Kumpen was chairman of the Belgian football club Genk from 1993-95. Younger sister Victoria-Jane Verstappen, having done some karting herself, working behind the scenes with Red Bull Netherlands.
Nonetheless, Max has been one of the best things to have happened to F1 in the turbo-era. He started off as an experiment, having vaulted the Formula 2 program to be given a seat in Toro Rosso in 2015 after finishing third in his maiden Formula 3 season behind Esteban Ocon and runner-up Tom Blomqvist. All his learning has been in the fast lane in the extremely competitive world of Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
Talked about as the World Champion of the future since at least 2016, he holds a string of firsts in F1 – The youngest driver to compete in Formula 1 at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix for Scuderia Toro Rosso, the youngest driver to lead a lap, the youngest driver to set the fastest lap, youngest driver to score points, the youngest driver to secure a podium, youngest race winner, the youngest multiple Grand Prix winner, the youngest to win the same Grand Prix multiple times, the youngest to win the same Grand Prix in successive years, and the 100th polesitter in the sport's history.
Counting this weekend's United States Grand Prix, he now has 100 Grands Prix and 7 wins under him. Here’s a look at his 5 seasons in F1:
2015: The Toro Rosso Debut
When a teenager (17) is jettisoned from Formula 3 straight into Formula 1, without even winning the junior title, the circumstances can’t be usual. The hype was massive, and so were the concerns of handing a drive too quickly to a rookie – though outlandishly talented he might be. The learning curve for a rookie in F1 is massive, intimidating, dizzying. Verstappen had no luxury of honing his skills in junior categories – yet the confidence in him shown by Red Bull was immense.
They had nowhere to go too. Sebastian Vettel was departing to Ferrari, and Daniil Kvyat was promoted to Red Bull and there were 2 slots to be filled at Toro Rosso. And so, they took a punt on a young Carlos Sainz Jr. and an even younger Verstappen. Both had fathers as racing drivers, both were Red Bull academy products, and both were evenly matched throughout their debut season.
Championship: 12th | Points: 49 | Podiums: 0 | Wins: 0