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Behind the scenes with Max: 'Success in sport does not define my whole life'

Published on 19 March 2024 by FORMULE 1 Magazine

This article previously appeared in FORMULE 1 Magazine, on pole for thirty years! For more news on Max Verstappen and Formula 1, visit
Author: Frank Woestenburg

Behind the wheel of his Formula 1 car, Max Verstappen is in a world of his own, only occasionally interrupted by his race engineer GainPiero. In contrast, outside of the car, the Dutchman is often surrounded by celebrities. In several conversations with Max, we paint a picture of his life outside of Formula 1

This is part one of the article. On 27 March, part two will be published on

In 1967 Tom Jones recorded his classic single ‘Green Green Grass of Home’. The song became a hit single, also for the Verstappen family. Max associates the tune with long trips in his dad’s van to and from Italy to race go-karts. With the kart in the back, Jones’ voice would boom from the speakers time and time again.

On his victory lap after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2023, the song was played on the team radio: a quirky surprise for the man who won 19 out 22 races and thus clinched his third world championship title. It became obvious quickly that Max isn’t a great singer. And, admittedly, he’s not a very talented football player either. Max, let’s start with football. You’ve been a PSV fan for years. You even joked you’d swap a season in Formula 1 for PSV winning the Champions League. How did you come to support PSV, especially as someone who did not grow in the club’s local area?

“It’s because of my dad, when he was sponsored by Philips. He was regularly invited to the matches, so I joined him. After a while, you just connect, and you feel you can associate yourself with a club. I think PSV just feels closer to who I am than for example Ajax. The mentality in Amsterdam is different compared to the warmth at PSV. And of course, Limburg, where I’m from, is closer to PSV, both geographically and in terms of mentality.”

“I don’t necessarily support a specific player. I’m not much of a baller myself. I occasionally kick a ball. I just enjoy watching the matches. I try to watch all the PSV games, if I can make it work.”

PSV player Noah Lang recently released a rap song ‘Noano 7k op je feestje.’
“Yeah, I saw that, it’s got a hip hop vibe.”

Last year you sang a bit of Green Green Grass of Home on the team radio. That’s a totally different genre. Is music a big factor in your life?
“Not really to be honest. I hardly ever listen to music, not even before a race. I know other athletes use it to get themselves in the zone or to relax. I don’t feel that need at all. Sometimes I listen to a bit of music in the car, but that’s it. I don’t listen during training or boring endurance tests. I hate wearing headphones when running. In general, I don’t like wearing stuff. I always take off bracelets and my watch. The only thing I’ll keep on are my clothes, ha!”

Do you listen to music at home?
“No, not really, it’s mainly the TV that’s on. I don’t need music to create atmosphere, there’s always atmosphere with the little one (Penelope, the daughter of his girlfriend Kelly Piquet) around or my cats that are terrorising each other.”

Talking about TV, in Qatar you met David Beckham. Did you see his documentary on Netflix?
“Yes, I did. It was well made and an impressive story.”

One episode is entirely dedicated to how an unnecessary red card had a huge impact on his life, but also the impact it had on his family, parents and those close to him.
“Yeah, that was bad. You see these sorts of extreme reactions more in football as opposed to Formula 1. Especially in England, where football is massive.”

“What I go through, doesn’t even compare to what he went through. In the documentary, you could really see how mentally strong David was. Despite everything, he focussed on his career and training sessions. He really showed it on the pitch and won people back. It was great to see how he let his feet do the talking.”

Is the impact that outside criticism can have one of the reasons that you’re not very active on social media?
“Yes, but I also think that what I do in private isn’t really anyone else’s business.

It probably makes you less vulnerable because you’re not as easily aware of some of the things being said?
“That’s right, but I don’t really follow many Formula 1 related accounts or people. I ignore a lot of Formula 1 news, so it doesn’t really appear in my timeline. To be honest, I only really follow other sports and athletes, to get a bit of balance in my life. When I’m home, I don’t want to know about everything in the paddock.”

“It’s the same when I’m in Brazil visiting family, when I see my father-in-law (three-time world champion Nelson Piquet). We really don’t talk about racing. He’s talked about that enough during his life. There comes a point when you don’t want to discus it. I understand it; there’s more to life.”

Do you still feel the same pressure to perform? You’re dominant and the title was wrapped up quickly in 2023.
“For me, nothing really changed to be honest. I always demand the best from myself to make the most out of every race weekend as I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say I gave it all. I’m not necessarily afraid of failure and in general I can let go of things. As long as you say to yourself: ‘Formula 1 is great and it’s wonderful to be successful, but it’s not the be and end all.’ It’s important to realise that. Success in sport does not define my whole life. I’ve said it before, everything that follows is a bonus. So far that approach has worked well for me.”

Martijn Garritsen, better know as DJ Martin Garrix, is a good friend. He regularly visits F1 races. It looks like you both approach success in a similar way?
“Yes, he’s just a normal guy and easy to get along with.”

How did you guys get to know each other; you operate in completely different worlds?
“In 2014 I was awarded the Young Talent Award at the NOC*NSF Sports Gala. Martijn was supposed to present the award, but whole thing went wrong. I was in a taxi in England and the live link between the studio and the taxi kept cutting out. We kept in touch after and then we met out of the blue during a holiday in Ibiza. We instantly hit it off. He’s a normal guy without any eccentricities.

“Of course, both of us don’t lead normal lives, he’s a DJ and I’m an F1 driver. But we’re both normal guys. Earlier in the year he was nearby in Sain-Tropez and we hung out. Nice and relaxed. I think for him it felt like a bit of a detox and an opportunity to catch his breath because of his busy schedule.”

Although your careers are so different, you are both role models for young people as you’re both young and successful.
“It’s not something we really think about. We both do our thing. If you act normal, and are able to talk about the things you experience, you’re able to deal with what comes your way. Of course, it’s really important to have the right people around you. People that keep your feet firmly on the ground. Thankfully I have enough of those people around me.”

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