Max Verstappen’s meteoric rise through the ranks to become a Formula 1 driver at the age of just 17 is one of the most remarkable stories in motorsport in recent years. Now he’s just turned 20 he’s practically a veteran of the sport, so we thought we’d take a look at some of the highlights of his career so far.
In 2014 Max made the step up from karting straight to F3 and was almost instantly impressive. He scored a podium in his first meeting, and a win in his second, but it was the middle of the season where he really established himself as something special.
At Spa he won all three races and then did the same at the Norisring a week later to make it six consecutive wins as he thrust himself into title contention against far more experienced drivers.
Although Verstappen won more races in his debut F3 season (10) than anyone else, it was Esteban Ocon who won the championship. The two met on track on more than one occasion and often it was Max who came out on top.
One of his best moves came during the third race at Spa. Ocon passed him on the run up to Les Combes but Verstappen instantly fought back with a stunning move around the outside to reclaim the lead.
Verstappen’s epic F3 season had drawn attention from loads of F1 teams, but it was Red Bull who made the best offer with a promise of a Toro Rosso seat in 2015. When he started the first race of the season in Melbourne he became the youngest F1 driver of all time, at just 17 years and 166 days old.
Two weeks later at the Malaysian GP he became the youngest driver to ever score points. After qualifying a sensational sixth in a wet qualifying he went on to finish seventh, ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz and ahead of both Red Bulls. Not bad!
As his first F1 season went on, Max proved he was far from the liability some had feared, and managed to pull off some very impressive overtakes in the process.
One of the best came at Spa when he went up against Felipe Nasr. Hanging it around the outside at Blanchimont (of all corners!), he managed to stay close enough to nail the Sauber into the Bus Stop on his way to an eventual eighth place.
Max stayed with Toro Rosso for 2016, but it was clear he was destined to be promoted to Red Bull sooner or later and unfortunately for Daniil Kvyat, it turned out to be sooner.
The two drivers were swapped ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix and Max instantly proved he belonged there as he qualified fourth first time out. More was to come in the race – when the two Mercedes drivers took each other out and Daniel Ricciardo ended up on the wrong strategy, Verstappen found himself on course to become the youngest winner in F1 history.
It was a slightly fortunate win, sure, but Verstappen had shown his mettle by calmly holding off Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari for several laps to take the victory, aged just 18 years and 228 days, in the process setting a record that is going to take some serious beating.
Undoubtedly his best race yet, Max pulled off one of the all-time great wet drives at Interlagos in 2016, up there with Ayrton Senna at Monaco in 1984 and Michael Schumacher in the 1996 Spanish GP.
Once the race finally got underway he breezed around the outside of Nico Rosberg and was homing in on race leader Lewis Hamilton when he had a ridiculous slide coming onto the pit straight, which he somehow managed to save.
A late misjudgement with the tyres by Red Bull dropped him way down to 14th place, but he fought his way through to a scarcely believable third in just 16 laps.
After the race, praise for his performance was flying in from all corners – even rival teams – as everyone acknowledged what a hell of a drive he’d put in.
2017 has been an absolute nightmare for Verstappen as reliability and some unfortunate incidents have caused him to retire from half the races he’s started so far.
There have been some high points though, the biggest of which probably came in China. He started only 16th after engine issues in qualifying, but in a race which started in damp conditions he’d gained a whopping nine places on the first lap alone. By lap 11 he was up to second place and ahead of Ricciardo, who’d started up in fifth.
Come the end of the race Sebastian Vettel had got past the Red Bulls, but Verstappen hung on to finish third. It’s crazy to think that’s been the only podium he’s had so far this year!
Here’s hoping turning 20 signals a turn-around in his luck because it’s not just him and the team that lose out when he retires, the fans do as well. After all, with Max Verstappen on the track, one thing’s for sure – something exciting usually isn’t too far away!
What are some of your favourite Verstappen moments? Let us know in the comments!
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