Max Verstappen is now a double Formula One world champion with Red Bull Racing, yet at times it appears all is not “sweetness and light” in the relationship between the two. Verstappen was recruited by Red Bull at the age of just 17 to drive in the junior F1 team branded Toro Rosso at the time.
Team boss Franz Tost recalls, “I knew him from the very beginning onwards and he was already mentally strong in those days.”
“Because if you remember right there were many people who criticised us to sit him in the Formula 1 car because he was only 17 years old, and even didn’t have a driver’s licence.”
Verstappen rocky Red Bull relationship
7 years on and Verstappen is riding the crest of a Formula One wave having won his second drivers’ title last time out in Japan. But it wasn’t quite so at the start of the 2022 season.
The first race weekend in Bahrain saw an unhappy Verstappen criticise the team heavily in his post race conference. Having started P2, Verstappen had been unable to pass Charles LeClerc. However with newer tyres and following a race restart behind the safety car on lap 51, Max looked race as he took it to the Ferrari driver.
Yet on lap 52, Verstappen radio the pit wall to notify them of a power unit issue. He was easily passed by Sainz and Lewis Hamilton then on lap 54 retired the car three laps short of the chequered flag.
Max slams the team
“But I think at this level, after already having so much information with engines and stuff, it shouldn’t happen.
“We already lost a lot of points again in one race weekend, so that’s just really not good, but of course I know that with one retirement it’s not over, but I would have preferred to have 18 points.”
Next time out Max won in Saudi Arabia but the Red Bull car proved troublesome again for him at round 3 in Australia. Pulling over on lap 39, Max indicated a small fire on the Red Bull to a Marshal who obligingly extinguished the flames.
Charles LeClerc went on to take his second victory in three races and stood 46 points clear of Verstappen in the drivers’ championship.
Horner understands Max fury
Verstappen was furious with the team and Christian Horner felt his driver was justified in his criticism.
“It’s totally understandable,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“That was a really disappointing result. We don’t know what the issue is yet but I don’t think it’s engine related, it seems fuel related.
“We can’t accept DNFs, we need to understand the issue and get on top of it.”
Ferrari fail to deliver
The world of Formula One from that point did a 180 degree turn for Max, as Ferrari suffered reliability problems, driver errors and disastrous team strategy calls.
Yet despite a monstrous lead over his nearest rival,. Verstappen still hods Red Bull to the highest standards and his father now reveals how he slammed “his fist on the table” following a poor call from the team even recently.
During a wet qualifying in Singapore Red Bull Racing failed to calculate properly the amount of fuel Max would require for Q3. On Max’s final lap he was around 1 second up on LeClerc’s pole time but with two corners to go was called into the pits.
Red Bull’s latest big mistake
The team were concerned if Verstappen had completed the lap he may not have the required 1 litre sample of fuel the FIA require at the end of the session.
At a circuit where overtaking is difficult Max was visibly disgusted with his P8 grid start when speaking to reporters following the session.
Verstappen’s father who travels to most F1 races with him reveals to Viaplay how mad Max actually was in Singapore.
“In qualifying in Singapore it didn’t go quite as it should, but then Max really hits his fist on the table,” revealed Jos Verstappen.
Fist on the table “is how it should be”
Jos argues this is in fact the sign of a perfectionist champion who demonstrated that mental toughness to Franz Tost 7 years ago as a 17 year old.
“That’s how it should be! He won’t let it happen, he won’t accept it.
“Max sends it and demands that also from Red Bull. He gives 100 per cent, but he demands that from everyone.”
Of course one week later Max Verstappen became a double world champion. Yet the relationship he has with Red Bull does fluctuate as Verstappen regularly airs his frustration over team radio.
However, Verstappen is respected and loved by his race crew and engineer as they know Verstappen exacting standards bring out the best in them as well as himself.
IT'S A FERRARI ONE, TWO!
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) March 20, 2022