1 Max Verstappen
After a short period in lower racing classes, Max Verstappen has been racing in Formula 1 since 2015 and for the Red Bull Racing team since 2016. In 2021, the inevitable happened: the Dutchman cashed in on his first good chance at the world title, beating Lewis Hamilton in the battle for the championship. With the departure of Honda and the new rules for the 2022 season, the big question now is whether he will be able to defend his title.
|Team||Red Bull Racing|
A young start to the journey to the top
As the son of Formula 1 driver Jos Verstappen, young Max can be found on the race track early in life. A pastime that the Dutchman later continued in karting and Formula 3, before moving on to the premier class of motorsport: Formula 1.
After years of karting, where he won several world titles, he began his motor racing career in Formula Renault 2.0 cars and the Florida Winter Series. All this before making his first metres in Formula 3. After that, the Red Bull driver’s career goes sky high.
The then still young Dutchman drove one year in Formula 3 for Van Amersfoort Racing. Although he won several races, it is the Frenchman (and later competitor in Formula 1) Esteban Ocon who took the title in 2014. For the Limburger, just a small blemish on the overall picture, as the step up to Formula 1 had already been made anyway.
Red Bull junior
With no Formula 3 title in his pocket, Max still moves to Formula 1 as a member of the Red Bull junior programme. Helmut Marko was so impressed with the young driver that he offered him a seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso for 2015.
In doing so, he made history: at seventeen, he was the youngest driver in Formula 1 ever to appear on the grid in Australia 2015 alongside the then 20-year-old Carlos Sainz. Immediately in that first race, he seemed to be on his way to points for a long time, until he dropped out with a technical problem.
After that, Max came extremely close to grabbing a podium twice in his first season in Formula 1, namely in Hungary and the United States. Twice he has to settle for fourth place in 2015. Something that would change very quickly in 2016….
Promotion to Red Bull Racing
After just four races in 2016, an announcement comes along that turns Formula 1 on its head: the Dutchman replaces the sidelined Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull Racing, who in turn takes Max Verstappen’s place at Toro Rosso. The Russian managed a podium finish in the race before the change!
The pressure on Max Verstappen’s shoulders to perform is therefore enormous, as he must show that Red Bull has made the right choice. During the race weekend in Spain, he took a seat in Red Bull’s F1 car and took on the challenge: a race not soon to be forgotten.
After a bizarre opening lap in which Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton rammed each other off the track, the Red Bull driver took the lead. He went on to win the race and become the youngest Grand Prix winner ever!
Max Verstappen takes the lead at Red Bull Racing
The RB14 is not as strong as expected in 2018, after which Max tries too hard to squeeze more out of it than is possible. Mistakes pile up and in Monaco it comes to a boiling point: the Dutchman shoots into the wall towards the end of third practice and has to watch helplessly as his teammate takes pole position. A day later, the same Daniel Ricciardo also wins the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.
After the race weekend in the driver’s hometown, the turnaround comes. Mistakes are exchanged for fine results and podiums and victories are also back.
The Dutchman came up just a few World Championship points short of finishing third in the championship, but set the tone for the new season. He has also moulded the team to his will, a development that makes Ricciardo decide to switch to Renault.
Successful start of collaboration with Honda
2019 started without Daniel Ricciardo and the Renault engine, but with Pierre Gasly and a Honda power unit at his side. He took responsibility as team leader and demonstrated maturity from the start. Honda gets all the compliments in interviews and Red Bull’s team can do little wrong either.
The switch to Honda seemed to be a success in 2019, as Max Verstappen had his best season with three wins and two official poles. In addition, the Dutchman also finishes in third place in the standings, putting him ahead of the faster Ferraris. Although Gasly was replaced by Alexander Albon due to disappointing performances, it promises a lot for the second year of the partnership.
However, this is somewhat disappointing. Mercedes appears to have made another big step forward in the winter of 2020, while Honda has become less reliable in its quest for power. As a result, Mercedes almost completely dominates the coronavirus pandemic-ridden season. Verstappen, however, ends the season as the winner by surprisingly winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 2021 promised to be an exciting battle with Lewis Hamilton.
Max Verstappen takes his first world title in 2021
That promise was fulfilled in 2021. In the new Formula 1 season, Max Verstappen once again had a new teammate: this time the experienced Sergio Perez will take care of his back.
From the Bahrain Grand Prix onwards, it was clear that Red Bull Racing and Honda have made great strides. Honda wanted to deliver a strong engine in their final Formula 1 season and the Japanese manufacturer had clearly succeeded. Contrary to expectations, Mercedes didn’t dominate the season from the start.
Title rival Hamilton made a number of costly mistakes under pressure, giving the Dutchman a comfortable lead in the championship. However, the Red Bull driver failed to score a decent amount of points a couple of times through no fault of his own, making the title fight in the second half of the season a lot more exciting.
Still, Verstappen appeared to have done enough to secure his first-ever world title. In 2021, he had ten victories to his name, culminating in the return of the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort. Luck is finally on his side in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton’s Mercedes is back to form and for a while it looked like it would be the Briton’s eighth title after all, but a late safety car threw everything into disarray.
Red Bull Racing were strategically on top and took full advantage of the situation by putting Verstappen on new softs. With one lap to go, the safety car’s work is done. Hamilton is prey to the Dutchman on his worn tyres, who strikes at his first opportunity. With just a few corners to go Max Verstappen became the 2021 Formula 1 world champion.
Max Verstappen in 2022
With the 2021 world title in his pocket, Verstappen and Red Bull Racing are heading into the unknown. For 2022, radical rule changes are scheduled and it remains to be seen which team will be able to deal with them best. Verstappen will want to defend his world title and Red Bull will also want to win the constructors’ title.