Max Verstappen is a whizz kid. There, we've said it. Just like every Formula One fan has been for the last five years. It's a cliche, sure, but in this case, it's also exactly right.
At the age of 22, Max Vertsappen's Formula One career is already incredibly impressive. After becoming the youngest ever full-time F1 driver in 2015, at the age of 17 and 166 days, he has continued to break motor racing records. Youngest driver ever to score points, youngest to lead a lap, youngest to set a fastest lap and the youngest Formula One race winner ever.
He's young, he's fast, he's supremely talented. So again, we say: whizz kid.
The son of Formula One driver Jos Verstappen, racing has surrounded Max all his life. As well as his father racing for Benetton, Tyrell and Honda, his mother competed in karting and his cousin in NASCAR. Max's talent, though, is still out of the ordinary, even in that family. Already known as an aggresive driver, he's drawn criticism and praise in almost equal measure from peers, teammates and bosses alike. But his desire to win is unquestionable.
Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race in the 2019 Formula One season, Verstappen enters the race third in the championship. Charles Leclerc is hot on his heels, but Max is fresh off a win Brazil. Can he bring home third place?
GQ Middle East sat down with Verstappen on TAG Heuer's yacht (Max has designed a limited edition TAG Heuer Formula 1 watch) in the midst of the Yas Marina circuit to find out what makes him tick.
Max Verstappen on F1 Racing
GQ: Max, how do you feel the season has gone so far?
MV: Yeah it's been pretty good, I think. A new partnership with Honda, a few new regulations which I think were a little bit more difficult for us to get on top of, but to still come away with three victories, I think was a good achievement. We're in a good place for next year, but of course we know that we have to improve a bit to try and fight Mercedes.
How does it feel to come to Abu Dhabi? Does it feel like you can relax because it's the last race of the season?
For me, personally not really, becuse i'm so focused on what I should do. I think it's really bad if you get into the wekeend with that attitude of just letting it go. It''s still a race where you can do well, even when things are decided. My mindset is always the same. You're always trying to get the most out of the car, you go back to the hotel room, sleep and come back.
Max Verstappen on the Yas Marina circuit
What do you think of the Abu Dhabi track?
It's different, very low speed corners that are off-camber corners that drop away from you so there's more sliding basically. The cars a bit more slippery. You have to set up the car in a different way as well.
How do you focus when you're racing
For me I don't really pay alot of attention to it to be honest. I'm just busy with my engineers away from it all. You see the lights but when you're so focused on what you don the track you don't really pay attention to it.
Max Verstappen on his race mindset
Do you have a routine for finding a race-mindset?
I think over the years you get very used to it and you do your thing. I'm pretty chilled. I don't have any superstitions, I just put on my race gear, communicate with my engineers, go through the procedures and do your thing. You grow into it. Now that i've ben driving longer i can relax into it, I know what to expect, there's no big surprises any more.
Do you still feel the pressure of a big race?
I love racing, so i'm always looking forward to it. I'm not thinking about how nervous i'm going to get. I love having the fights with the guys on the track, so for me the Sunday is always the best day. It takes the pressure away.
What does scare you?
Sharks! If i would jump into the water now I would not be so comfortable. When i'm in the water and I can't see underneath, I hate that. Snakes, and then spiders. the big ones.
Max Verstappen on beating Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton won his sixth title this year. How much would you like to take it from him next year?
In F1 you're really dependent on the car, you know? Otherwise everybody could fight for the championship but that's not possible. That's not because one driver is a lot worse, it's because they don't have the car. As a team next year we'll try to win. It's going to be hard, but we'll go flat out to do it.