…and young Red Bull ace Max Ver­stap­pen an­swers them

The Red Bull ace and For­mula 1’s youngest ever grand prix win­ner dis­cusses his rac­ing pedi­gree and ex­plains why pass­ing his driv­ing test wasn’t quite plain-sail­ing

Max Ver­stap­pen doesn’t hes­i­tate. His whole de­meanour, whether he’s in­side the cock­pit of a rac­ing car or talk­ing to friends, jour­nal­ists or en­gi­neers, is flat-out. He’s not a man to dwell on an idea: there’s no doubt in his mind about where he wants to go next – be that out on track or over the course of a con­ver­sa­tion.

We catch up with Max ahead of what will turn out to be an event­ful week­end for him. Dur­ing the Malaysian Grand Prix, not only will he leave his teenage years be­hind as he turns 20 (his birth­day lands on the same day as qual­i­fy­ing, 30 Septem­ber), but he’ll also scoop the sec­ond grand prix vic­tory of his ca­reer.

But all that is cur­rently still to come. This in­ter­view is tak­ing place the Thurs­day be­fore the event and we’re armed with a much big­ger stack of ques­tion cards than usual, which have been sent in by

F1 Rac­ing read­ers from around the world. We an­tic­i­pate he’ll rat­tle through them – and we’re right. Let’s go…

What was the se­cret to your stun­ning drive in that wet race at In­ter­la­gos in 2016? Kasra Mog­ari, USA

There wasn’t re­ally any se­cret. I was just driv­ing my car like a kart – find­ing the grip, try­ing dif­fer­ent lines – and when there’s so much spray, you can’t re­ally see where you’re go­ing if you just fol­low the other driv­ers. I was try­ing dif­fer­ent lines to see where I was go­ing, and that worked out pretty well.

F1 Rac­ing: Is it true to say that all the grip is off-line? MV: It de­pends. On that track it seemed to work, but it’s not the same at other venues. It’s mainly ‘feel­ing’. You just have to try dif­fer­ent lines. F1R: And at one point you came close to hit­ting the wall. MV: Yes. That was very close.

What has been your favourite over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vre in F1 and why? Chris Hod­son, UK

I think the one at Spa, around the out­side. That was quite tricky. F1R: On Felipe Nasr? MV: Yup. I’ve had a few you know, so it’s quite dif­fi­cult to re­mem­ber

them all. Even Brazil in the wet last year was good. But to over­take around Blanchi­mont at high speed was the most chal­leng­ing ma­noeu­vre.

Which his­toric F1 car would you most like to have a go in? Marco van Harn, Nether­lands

I would like to try a 1994 car, some­thing like that. And then af­ter that I’d like to try a car from around 2007 or 2008. F1R: Is there any rea­son why you’d be so keen to drive cars from those pe­ri­ods in par­tic­u­lar? MV: I like the look of them, par­tic­u­larly the cars from 1994. With the later ones, I just like all the aero­dy­namic parts and wings on them. F1R: So noth­ing truly his­toric from the 1960s or 70s? MV: No, not in­ter­ested.

Which F1 teams and driv­ers did you fol­low when grow­ing up? Not in­clud­ing your dad… Paul Wil­liamson, UK

I didn’t re­ally fol­low any driver or team. I just liked to watch the races. I never had pic­tures of a favourite F1 driver or any of their cars on the wall of my room, or any­thing like that. Noth­ing. F1R: So, for­give us ask­ing, what did you have pic­tures of? MV: Land­scapes, maps of the world, coun­tries, cap­i­tals and flags…

F1R: So if we were to give you a coun­try, would you be able to name its cap­i­tal city? MV: I’ll try, but it was a long time ago. F1R: We’ll give you a hard one to start off. What’s the cap­i­tal city of Mon­go­lia? MV: That’s a tricky one. I don’t know that one. F1R: How about Saudi Ara­bia? MV: Riyadh. F1R: Very good! Ulaan­baatar is the cap­i­tal of Mon­go­lia.

Are you bet­ter than your dad? Peter Shep­pard, UK

Well, that was al­ways the aim of my dad, when he was help­ing me, for me to be­come bet­ter than him. So, yes, I am.

Which track would you like to see added to the F1 sched­ule? Joseph John­ston, USA

I quite like Imola, that’s a good track and I’d like to see it make a re­turn to the cal­en­dar. Or Zand­voort, with some mod­i­fi­ca­tions – I think that would be great. Other tracks? No, not re­ally. F1R: What about some­where like Adelaide? MV: Nah, I’m not a fan of street cir­cuits in gen­eral. I pre­fer nor­mal tracks with fast cor­ners.

Which is your favourite track to race on, and why? Jo Roberts, UK

That’s def­i­nitely Spa. It’s kind of a home grand prix for me and there are a lot of fans. But also the track it­self is so good, the lay­out has flow­ing cor­ners and it’s not so much stop-start. That’s what I like in a qual­i­fy­ing lap: re­ally push­ing, not hav­ing lock-up un­der brak­ing be­cause of a hair­pin, or strug­gling with trac­tion. There’s none of that – just a se­quence of fast cor­ners. Sec­tor two is my favourite: Les Combes and then the long right-han­der down the hill. It can be tricky to get the right line; it de­pends on your car. Some­times you might have to ‘V’ the cor­ner a bit more be­cause you are un­der­steer­ing, or if you have more front end you can take more of a ‘U’ line.

Which other rac­ing dis­ci­plines do you want to try later on in your ca­reer? Steven Cook, USA

I’d like to try Mo­togp. When I was eight years old I used to race on two wheels as well as four. I re­ally liked it. It was a bit more dan­ger­ous, of course, but ab­so­lutely I would like to try it. Mo­togp is a dif­fer­ent world but I like the feel­ing of get­ting close to the ground with your knees in the cor­ners. I don’t nor­mally watch any other type of rac­ing. I’ll tune into the Indy 500, but not any­thing else ex­cept for Mo­togp. It’s good to watch: great rac­ing.


Who is quicker: your mum [for­mer kart­ing star So­phie Kumpen] or your dad [for­mer F1 racer Jos Ver­stap­pen]? Justin Bobby, Aus­tralia

I think ul­ti­mately my dad. Yes, my mum was very quick, but I think my dad was just that lit­tle bit bet­ter. They have driven in karts on the same track to­gether – and it’s been close – but my dad was faster.

You post a lot of pic­tures of your­self play­ing games on so­cial me­dia – what’s your favourite? Tom Bryan, UK

Mainly FIFA. A bit of the F1 game, but mainly foot­ball with my Ul­ti­mate Team on FIFA 18.

When you passed your driv­ing test last year, did the ex­am­iner point out any is­sues with your driv­ing or give you any point­ers? Aaron Fothergill, UK

Um… yes, twice. Both times I didn’t give way, but from my per­spec­tive the other driver was so far away. So, that was the ex­am­iner’s opinion against mine. The other time there were peo­ple cross­ing, but they were not even close to the edge of the road. Again, that was my opinion against his. But I got my li­cence, so it’s all good now.

Do you reckon you have been un­justly ac­cused of hav­ing too ‘wide’ a car? Isn’t the point of rac­ing to pass and not be passed? Robert Wood, USA

Yeah, I think over­tak­ing is an art and de­fend­ing is an art as well.

What is it like work­ing with Dr Hel­mut Marko? Don­ald Rose, USA

From the out­side he looks… I wouldn’t say ‘grumpy’, but a dif­fi­cult per­son. But ac­tu­ally when you get to know him he’s a nice guy and a racer who un­der­stands what he’s talk­ing about. And you have to per­form oth­er­wise you get kicked off the Red Bull Young Driver Pro­gramme and that’s the re­al­ity of the sport. He is a bit harsh com­pared with other peo­ple, but then again I’ve been work­ing with my dad and I’ll never find any­one harder on me than my dad is.

Hi Max, what do you do to have fun? John Slater, New Zealand

Just spend­ing time with my friends. Jet-ski­ing, maybe not so much now the weather’s turned, but that’s my favourite. I do spend time with my fam­ily, but be­cause I travel so much, it’s nice to be at home and to sleep and chill.

What de­sign rule would you in­tro­duce to make the driv­ing bet­ter? Trevor Mcbean, UK

At the mo­ment we can’t fol­low other cars very closely and that’s a prob­lem I would ad­dress. But that’s the only thing.

Who’s your rac­ing hero? Michael Parker, New Zealand

I don’t have one. F1R: Not even your dad? MV: No, be­cause I don’t see him as a rac­ing hero, I just see him as a mentor and friend. I have a lot of re­spect for what he did to help me.

Given your love for the Playsta­tion, would you con­sider rac­ing in the F1 es­ports world cham­pi­onship? Ku­nal Shah, In­dia

I could do, but I wouldn’t be fast as I don’t play it enough. There are a lot of pro­fes­sional sim rac­ers, so I’d have no chance…

} Next month, Stof­fel Van­doorne is in the hot­seat. For your chance to ask him a ques­tion, sign up at: f1rac­­al­fan­com­mu­nity

Max as a tod­dler in 2000, pic­tured with his fa­ther, Jos, who was then rac­ing in F1 with Arrows

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