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The real Max Verstappen

2 years ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


14 November 2022

After yesterday’s race, I’m not sure which one it is. The real Max Verstappen is either the imperious F1 driver who has matured hugely in 2022, raced cleanly and won Grands Prix and the championship like he’s been competing against Formula 2 cars.

His campaign this season has been worthy of the greats of the sport. Or it could be the Verstappen who nerfed a rival off track with a desperate lunge up the inside before petulantly disobeying team orders.

For 71 laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Dutchman reverted to the Max Verstappen of old – impatient, aggressive, disrespectful, skulking around the media pen after the race with a long face, trying to look as though he didn’t care about any of it. Of course, Max is both. It is easy to be all sweetness and light with a car beneath you that you can drive well beyond the reach of anybody else, and Max has been coming across well.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

But once the pressure was on – when for the first time all year his car wouldn’t allow him to do what he does better than anybody – all that sweetness turned bitter and the light faded. His collision with Lewis Hamilton spooled us back 12 months in an instant, the Mercedes and Red Bull coming together in a shower of carbon fibre like they did so many times in their epic duel for the World Championship. 

Max Verstappen Racing

I agree with the stewards – it wasn’t entirely Max’s fault and Lewis could have left more room up the inside. But it’s curious: bouncing off another car on your outside would ordinarily tighten your line. Verstappen collided with the Mercedes and still sailed off the track, suggesting he would never have made the corner had Lewis waved him through. So this was one of those ‘leap out of the way or we crash’ Hail Marys that Max seemed to have given up last New Years. 

Max Verstappen Crash

Mercedes now appears to have understood the new F1 regulations (and George Russell deserves every ounce of praise he has received for becoming a GP winner), which suggests Verstappen and Red Bull will find themselves under much more of the sort of pressure in 2023 that they felt yesterday. Will we see more of the tempestuous Max we once knew so well? Will he now have to deal with that pressure without the backing of an obedient rear-gunner? I can’t wait to find out. 

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