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Max reflects on intense title battle: 'Something I will never forget'

Published on 14 December 2021 by Kees-Jan Koster

The new Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen stayed a couple of days in Abu Dhabi after the Grand Prix. After recovering from all the festivities, a recording for his personal partner CarNext and other media sessions were waiting for him. The worldwide attention after winning the title is overwhelming.

“The whole day has been a rollercoaster”, says Max. “Of course, I was nervous when I went into the car, I knew there was a title at stake. The race as well was a rollercoaster of emotions, when it seems you are losing the battle. I always said to push till the last lap, but it did not make it easy. I kept believing that there might be coming something my way at the end of the race, but you never expect that to happen. After that safety car and having a one lap shootout, being on fresher tyres, I knew that was my chance.”

The Dutch Red Bull Racing driver continues about that last lap, in which he had to overtake Lewis Hamilton: “I was so close, but then I had a massive cramp in my leg, the whole lap. I was going flat out, biting my teeth, it was painful. I made the move, but then there were still another two long straights to battle with Lewis. With this cramp it was not enjoyable”, says Max with a smile. “All that adds to the emotion of the race.”

Father Jos was at the cradle of Max’ success and has given everything for his son over many years. “When I travelled all over Europe with my dad, the goal was to get to Formula 1. That was already an achievement. You hope to stand on the podium or maybe win a race. The ultimate goal is to win a championship. Once achieving that, and having an emotional moment with my dad behind the podium and in the garage, was special. Something I will never forget.”

Max continues: “My dad was the big influence in terms of performance, but my mum always supported me. She often came to races. She gets nervous, at every race, so I do not know how she survived. For the whole family it is something really special.”

Peaks can only be reached when you learn from mistakes and setbacks, as Max explains: “Sometimes it hurts, but it needs to hurt sometimes. That is what my dad always says. When I was still racing go-carts in the national championships, I had a lot of wins, and I did not know what losing was like. My dad said one day you will learn, and it will hurt. The day came that I did not win, and I was crying. I hate losing. I think that is a good mentality, but you have to understand and analyse why that is. You then also have to be respectful to the guy who beat you. Over the years you learn how to do that better.”

When did you know that this could be the year? Max: “When I was in the lead of the championship at one point and the gap was increasing, it looked good. Still every race was a battle. I won, there may have been one or two races where we were dominant, but the rest was always so tight. I never felt comfortable in the lead. We had some unlucky moments: the tyre blowout in Baku, Silverstone and Hungary. I lost a lot of points, but as a team we really worked well together, we kept optimising the car and the engine. That gave us the opportunity to fight into the last race.”

“I am normally not an emotional guy. I do not really show my emotions. But I was crying on the in lap”, reveals Max. “It means a lot to me, it is my life. When you achieve your life’s mission, that is something truly incredible. Not only for me, but for my whole family, because they also had to live for me. All of this has not been for nothing, which is very special. It is a family effort.”

What does come next, Max? “Becoming world champion was the ultimate goal. We had pole positions, fastest laps, wins and all of that, but this was the ultimate dream. Now that we have achieved that, everything that comes next is a bonus. I am looking forward to drive around with number 1.”