Max Verstappen On 12 December, he achieved what he had always wanted: to be a Formula 1 champion. But not with the image of his dreams, since that race in Abu Dhabi was defined on the last lap with a decision by the race management that influenced Lewis Hamilton’s chances of becoming the best Formula 1 winner.
This season, the Dutchman was able to show his mental strength and his excellent qualities behind the wheelthe ones that led him to be the youngest Grand Prix winner when he was 18, 7 months and 15 days, just 24 races after his debut, and now the two-time F1 champion.
In Japan, the land where eight years and six days ago he made his debut, testing the Toro Rosso that the French Jean-Eric Vergne would have left him at the end of the season, despite a few moments of confusion, secured his second title with four dates to goas happened to the Germans Michael Schumacher (in 2001 and 2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2011), although he could have gotten it much earlier.
“My father has already told me that Suzuka is a very difficult circuit and that is why I am not going with the idea of breaking records but with the intention of experiencing new sensations”had said that time, before setting a time of only 2 seconds and 696 thousandths slower than Nico Rosberg, the best of the opening session of the 2014 Japanese GP, where he finished 12th.
Then, on March 15, 2015, at the age of 17, 5 months and 15 days, he became the youngest F1 rookie. And at the next Grand Prix, in Malaysia, he managed to be there the smallest to score, finishing seventh at 17 years, 5 months and 27 days. He added back to Austria, Hungary, Singapore, Japan, Russia, the United States, Mexico and Brazil to finish with 49 in 12th place among 21 drivers in his first season.
The following year, after 24 races at Toro Rosso, Not even half of the season had passed when Red Bull promoted him to the first team and in his first race, on May 15, 2016, he won. It was precisely in the Spanish GP marked by the clash between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that left the two Mercedes out of competition that the Dutchman entered his name as the youngest driver, at 18 years, 7 months and 15 days, to climb the top step of an F1 podium.
“Is fantastic. I can’t believe it, it was a super race. I have to thank the team for giving me such a good car and my father, who helped me from an early age to achieve this, ”said that young Verstappen, to whom many predicted a future for him as the youngest champion in 2017.
But it didn’t happen. Verstappen has reached 23 years of Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, the youngest F1 champions in 2010 and 2008 respectively, in the 2020 season in which the Englishman became the seven-time world champion, taking away 133 points and even leaving him third, nine behind Valtteri Bottas, the other Mercedes man.
In the end, he was champion last year, when he was already 24 years old, the same as Fernando Alonso in his first title with Renault. A few days after his 25th birthday, on 30 September, Verstappen won his second F1 championship. after an overwhelming dominance, with 12 wins in 18 races so far.
From the torn and aggressive Verstappen to the one that has no rivals
is no longer Crazy Max. He is no longer the driver capable of doing anything to win because he does not need it. Just like last year he had an unstoppable fight with Hamilton that could always end in an accident or unscrupulous maneuver, Verstappen was quiet this year, despite not having a desired start. His fights were given to his team when needed, but never to his rivals.
Perhaps because his main obstacle was one of the guys he started his karting career with; perhaps because it had already shaken off the pressure of the long-awaited first title since its early debut. The Dutch and his inner circle have the answers, the one they are in Joseph Verstappenhis father and mentor as a former F1 driver and his girlfriend kelly picketthe daughter of three-time champion Nelson Piquet.
After dropping out in Bahrain on the initial date, in which he asked for explanations on the radio as to why his engine ran out, Verstappen He has won in circuits where he had never won before: Saudi Arabia, Miami – incorporated this year -, Azerbaijan, Canada, Budapest, despite starting tenth, Monza, the birthplace of Ferrari and in which Charles Leclerc started from the enviable first place, and Japan.
The record is even more impressive when you take into account that until 2020 he had barely 10 wins in six years in Formula 1 and had repeated wins in Mexico (2) and Austria (2). The latter is also his favorite circuit: he is the only driver to have four wins at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, where Alain Prost won three times between 1983 and 1986, although not this year (Leclerc won ). Over the past two years, Verstappen has added 21 achievements to his tally. to accumulate already 32 of the 159 contested grand prix.
A great team behind a great champion
On 30 July, Verstappen had led the drivers’ championship for more than two months and had four wins out of seven races since winning in Spain, displacing Leclerc from the lead. Red Bull had managed to give him the car the champion deserved to defend his title and the Dutchman was enjoying the honey. But that day he cried out in despair during the last outing on the Budapest circuit in Q3 of the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying: “I have no power!”.
Three minutes from the end, the cars began to take to the track to define the order of the Sunday starting grid. Immediately a radio went on; was from Verstappen. “I have no power, nothing works”, he desperately announced to his engineer, while the Ferraris lowered the times: Sainz scored a 1: 17.421, 146 thousandths faster than Leclerc. But the stake would not be for any of them, because while Verstappen insulted for his tenth positionRussell set a time of 1: 17.377, lowering Sainz by 44 thousandths, to keep his first pole.
Since, Red Bull strategic engineer Hannah Schmitz has developed a plan for the Dutchman to move up from 10th place he should have started on July 31 to win the final race before the summer break. It was very risky: starting both Verstappen and Checo (11th) with the soft tire.
“From those positions, perhaps one of the most classic strategies to do is to start with the harder tire and last a lot longer, especially since overtaking in Hungary is much more difficult, so that was our plan. But we had also talked a lot earlier. the race on the fact that the conditions were a bit wet and very cold that we could consider the soft tire as an alternative, “the 37-year-old Briton told the program Any Monday guided from Sky Sport.
Red Bull’s chief strategy engineer cataloged that champion win as “one of the best of the season”perhaps comparable only by her to the one with which she had obtained results Czech in Munich this year. But he acknowledged that it was not easy to convince them of that idea: “On the grid, both riders clearly said they barely had any grip even though they were already on the soft tire,” he recalled.
“We all discussed it at length with Christian (Horner, Red Bull’s chief engineer) and decided to switch to soft tires. Our concern was whether we could make enough progress in that first stint to make it worthwhile, but obviously both riders made great progress, so it really was. “ the best strategy, contrary to Ferrari’s choice of medium tiresstarted 2nd and 3rd and finished off the podium (Sainz, fourth and Leclerc, sixth).
The win in Hungary was Red Bull’s ninth of the season, in which Verstappen was eight. The other was that of the Mexican Pérez in Monaco, where the engineer was also fundamental, according to another strong presence of the team, Dr. Helmut Marko: “I am proud of the whole team, but above all of Hannah. Obviously. she receives a lot of information, but she kept calm and waited to make the right decision. Not only did she allow us to win with Checo, but she also got Max ahead of Leclerc. “
That time at the Hungaroring, Schmitz admitted that a win was not the goal at the start of the day, making the result “even sweeter”. “It wasn’t really until the end of the race that I thought: “Wow, we could really win this one!” So, it was a lot sweeter from where we started, “he explained.
Cambridge graduate with a master’s in mechanical engineering and since 2009 with the Austrian teamshe entered as an intern, Schmitz had to prove that she was capable of making important decisions.
“As a strategist – he hypothesized some time ago in a chat on the team’s YouTube channel – I have the responsibility to tell many people what to do and they have to listen to you, so you have to build a bond of trust and I think that, as a woman, unfortunately it was the most complex thing. But now I have that respect and I hope that other young women who want to get into the sport will see that they can do it, that they will accept them and so we will see more diversity. “
This year it was also the star of Red Bull’s success, which could add to Verstappen’s title in the Constructors’ Championship.