F1, in the footsteps of Max Verstappen, born a driver: « He was so superior to his competitors that his father deliberately sabotaged his karting »

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Will Max Verstappen become world champion for the first time this Sunday? © AFP

Dad former Formula 1 driver, mother ex-karting champion: the fate of Max Verstappen, who can be crowned Formula 1 world champion for the first time on Sunday, was all laid out. « Mad Max« was born a pilot.

« He was already driving kartings or quads before even knowing how to read or write« , her mother recalled recently, Sophie kumpen, in an interview on Dutch television NOS.

The pilot, who has dual Belgian-Dutch nationality (he was born in Belgium, in Hasselt, of Belgian mother and Dutch father) and races under a Batavian license, competed in his first races at the age of four during a competition « Mini Junior« .

« We always talked about racing at home and Max insisted more and more on riding a kart. I never forced him, I rather gave in to his urgent request!« , said his father, Jos, at the KartMag site in 2014.

« I was glad he showed that desire but I didn’t really get involved in his career until I realized he was good. Otherwise, we would have just competed in national races for the fun of it.« 

Young Max has always claimed not to have become a pilot « to be like (his) parents but because (he) loved it« .

Damn you can’t lie though. Like others « son of« (Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill, Nico Rosberg, etc.), the little one lived throughout his childhood at the level of the asphalt.

« Gifted kid »

Paul Lemmens, owner of the Genk karting circuit, in Belgium, at the time when the young Verstappen was making his first laps of the track, mentioned « a gifted kid« . »I remember a year when, out of 60 races, he won 59. He won everything.« , he mentioned in 2015 in a video on the website of his circuit.

The photograph Frits van Eldik, who experienced the emergence of the phenomenon up close and is currently devoting an exhibition to it, « Vleugels to the Max« (Max’s Wings) in Breda, the Netherlands, relates that, »from the age of six, we knew that Max had something more than the others« .

« At the age of five or six, we saw him counter-steer, hold the throttle; all this naturally« , he explains this week to the Dutch agency ANP.

« He was so superior to his competition that his father would deliberately sabotage his kart, make bad settings to see if Max would notice the problems. It didn’t take long for him to see that his rear axle had a problem.« , also reports the photographer.

« Still in development »

The aspiring F1 world champion made his first laps in a real racing car, a Formula Renault, on a closed circuit in Wales, out of sight, in 2013.

« You can be good at karting, but that’s no guarantee. The few people present and his father Jos were however quickly convinced of the kid’s talent.« , according to Frits van Eldik.

« Everyone was excited and Max just said it’s a lot easier than karting.« 

The following year, the current Red Bull driver drove in Formula 3, before, a year later, making his debut in Formula 1, becoming at 17 the youngest driver in the history of the premier class of motorsport. , although he did not yet have his driver’s license.

« I think Max has always been one step ahead« , explained to AFP his manager Raymond Vermeulen on the sidelines of the last Brazilian Grand Prix.

« He has always been years ahead of his colleagues in every category. We still see it today in development and I think the best is yet to come as it is not yet mature.« , assured Vermeulen.

At only 24 years old, Verstappen can indeed envision a long career.

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