Max Verstappen about dealing with the hype, avoiding free weights and why a kebab hits the spot.Edgar chatted with
Max Verstappen made Formula One history when, at just 17 years and 166 days, he became the youngest ever driver to compete in the pinnacle of motor racing.
Now, at 21, he’s being backed by many to become the best driver of his generation.
With a former F1 racer for a father (Jos Verstappen) and a karting legend for a mother (Sophie Kumpen) professional racing is in Max Verstappen’s blood. So how does a 21-year-old handle the hype? And what’s “normal life” like for the Dutch-Belgian racing prodigy?
How do you deal with the hype of being tipped by many as the next big hope and superstar of F1?
In the same way I avoid social media, I don’t really listen too much, to be honest. You know, it’s great that people are so positive, but for me what’s the most important is staying true to myself, the people who really know you, the team and they can make a difference in achieving.
You don’t use social media much, then?
I’m not on it that much. Once I’m at home, I would much prefer to be doing other things. It certainly doesn’t control my life.
How do you kick back?
It’s always different. Sometimes it’s just a whole day of nothing, watching TV, sim racing on the PlayStation with friends, just hanging out, you know, normal stuff.
Christian (Horner, Team Principle of Red Bull Racing) said he likes his drivers to be able to express themselves. Do you enjoy that freedom?
I think that’s how I am. Even at Toro Rosso, that’s how I was. Maybe it wasn’t broadcast as much. Because you’re not fighting for victories and podiums.
So for me there’s no reason to change, even if the team doesn’t like it. You took me on board like I am, and it’s what brought me to where I am now, so I’m like it for a reason.
Sportsmen don’t really have the chance to express themselves any more. Everyone seems to be media trained to within and inch of their lives. What do you think about that?
Well, we can’t say anything we like because everything is then written about and analysed in 40 different ways, so you have to be careful. And everybody has an opinion – especially with people on social media. Everyone’s a journalist these days.
A lot of people overlook how physically demanding F1 is on your body. How strict is your training schedule?
Well, I’m also one of the tallest drivers, so with my extra weight, I’m not necessarily struggling, but being heavier means I have to maybe not go for the nice meal when other people go out. But at the end of the day, I’m a professional athlete, so you just have to deal with that.
Is that a lot of conditioning or cardio?
Well, we can’t really do too much strength training and build up too much muscle because we’ll end up being too heavy for the cars, so we stick to a lot of running and cycling. But not too much cycling that the legs get too big. And from there it’s a lot of bodyweight exercises. We can’t be bodybuilders! It’s always a challenge to find the sort of workout where you’re getting much stronger but also where you’re not putting on too much weight.
Not much weight training then?
I can’t – I wouldn’t be able to fit into the car!
How do you keep on top of the training routine during the season?
It’s not easy to keep it up when you’re on the circuit. For us, the most important is Jan and Feb, when you’re getting yourself into fitness for the season coming up. You try not to have any commitments.
What’s the diet like?
It’s pretty strict. You have to reduce your red meat intake. The thing that works for me is, I put a plate together with a lot of colours on it – that tends to work and show I have everything I need from a meal. Personally, I’m not too much into fish, so I have to take a lot of fish oil pills.
Do you have a cheat meal?
For me I’d probably end up with a big burger, with French fries, or a kebab — that hits the spot.
How often do you allow yourself to have a burger or kebab?
Only after the race weekend is done.
Verstappen: “If you start going to 24 or 25 races in a season, then you better just file for divorce straight away.”
Did the crash with Estaban Ocon affect your game plan going forwards?
Well, it was out of my hands what happened there, it was a bit odd, to be honest so, it doesn’t mean you should change anything.
Does it get tiring answering the questions over and over?
Well, we always try to find a different answer to keep it interesting.
What’s your favourite circuit?
What do you think of the Abu Dhabi Circuit?
It has its own character with a lot of 90 degree corners, and so it’s a bit more difficult to drive. It’s not an easy track to understand.
Christian says you have the potential to be one of the greatest drivers of your generation. How do you set your sights on achieving that?
In Formula One it’s all dependant on the package you have. Hopefully we’ll (the Red Bull Racing team) will have it next year. As a team we want to get back to winning races and championships. And with Honda coming on board, they also have that target so hopefully we can achieve it together.
Looking forward then, Honda is a bright light for the Red Bull Racing team. Do you think this makes you genuine contenders for next year?
It’s difficult to say – the new car isn’t built yet. We haven’t driven the new Honda engine yet, of course it’s positive news, but before all that we have to make sure we build a really good car, so I think up until Barcelona, we’re just guessing.
Who’s a better driver: mum or dad?
I would go for my dad, but my mum back in the day in go karting was pretty formidable. Dad made it to F1, so he takes that one. I think she agrees on that so it’s okay to say.
What do you think about adding more circuit to the F1 calendar?
21 is enough already. It’s not just for the drivers, but even more for the mechanics. These guys travel a lot more than us, and if you start going to 24 or 25 races in a season, then you better just file for divorce straight away, because they’re never going to see their wives or families. It seems like the F1 owners aren’t really looking into that, so at some stage I guess we’ll have to speak up and say something.
This (the ’18 Abu Dhabi GP) is the first time there’s been a section for one driver’s fans. That must be a good feeling?
Here? Is it? They put all the orange together?!
Yeah. So you’ll look out for them?
That’s great to hear! Well, you can’t miss that colour in the stands!
END OF INTERVIEW
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