"Mad" Max Verstappen brings teen spirit to Formula One racing

By junior reporter Joy Pamnani

At 17, "Mad" Max Verstappen is already setting F1 records, and is well-versed in the science of speed

By junior reporter Joy Pamnani |

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Max Verstappen racing in the Macau Grand Prix

The crowd cheers as you rev your engine. The light turns green, you put the pedal to the metal and take off like a shot, leaving your competitors in the dust.

Sound like another racing game? Well, it's not. It's an average race day for 17-year-old Max Verstappen. The young Dutchman is already an icon in the sport, alongside his parents who have successfully made famous names for themselves.

Max's dad, Jos "The Boss" Verstappen, is a former Dutch Formula One pilot who held the title of German Formula Three champion and 1993 Masters of Formula Three winner. Max's mum, Sophie Kumpen, comes from a racing family and is a talented driver in her own right. It's fair to say that Max has the art in his blood.

"I remember my dad was the one who first introduced me to karting when I was four, and I just knew this was something I wanted to continue with," says the youngest Verstappen.

Beginning his racing journey with karting, Max slowly built up a reputation in the field, claiming the championships in the Rotax Max Minimax, WSK World Series and other events.

Max Verstappen knew racing was in his blood since the age of four. Photo: AFP

This year he levelled up by joining the Junior Red Bull team to become the youngest driver ever in the history of Formula One racing.

The world was watching when he took part in the Macau Grand Prix Formula 3 earlier this month. "I'm honoured to be here and really looking forward to the races!" he said on the finals day.

Spectators cheered him on after a mishap on qualifying day resulted in both damage to his car and a major demotion to last spot on the grid for the start of the finals.

But despite the bad luck, he steered his way from second-to-last position all the way to seventh, just behind Stefano Coletti. He also set the fastest lap for the day, with a time of 2:11.748.

Not a bad showing, but Max wanted to do better. "It was obvious that coming from 24th it was just a case of doing the best we could." he says.

Max will represent the Italian team Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One racing next year, where he hopes to achieve his dream of becoming the F1 Champion.

And though he might be young, he takes this dream very seriously saying: "Racing is like my job in life, and I will try to devote a lot my time to it."

It's obviously a job he enjoys, along with the exhilarating atmosphere that comes with it. "I love listening to the sound of the engine, the cheering of the crowds, and being able to hear myself zoom along the track."

As a racing phenom, Max's busy schedule keeps him from some typical teen activities - like school.

"Unlike others, I don't attend normal school and actually have to have private schooling at home," says Max, adding that he also needs to do a fair amount of physical training.

"I particularly put emphasis on my neck, as it has to be kept stable for over an hour while racing."

Max also knows the importance of maintaining a balance in life and still gives time to his family, friends and most importantly rest and relaxation. He admits: "If I don't sleep well at night, I won't be able to do my best on the track the next day."

It's intense, hard work, but it's paying off. Max has already matched some of his dad's accomplishments, but he's not going to stop there.

He boldly says: "I'll give it everything I've got. Racing is no fun game - it's my life."