For most athletes becoming world champion in their discipline is a life changing event, the culmination of a lifetime of effort, focus and sacrifice.
While Verstappen has certainly been groomed from a young age by racing father Jos to get to the pinnacle of his discipline, the 24-year-old appears to have developed a surprisingly pragmatic mindset on future success.
At the Turkish Grand Prix the Dutchman, who is embroiled in a tense F1 title fight with Mercedes rival Hamilton, stated he was relaxed about the outcome of 2021, saying that “even if we would finish second, I think we’d still have had a great season. At the end of the day, it’s not really going to change my life.”
Speaking exclusively to Autosport ahead of the US Grand Prix in Austin, Verstappen says the realisation that there is more to life than competing has helped form his cool outlook.
“To be honest, for some it does change your life but for me it doesn’t,” Verstappen said during a visit to Red Bull fuel partner ExxonMobil, which runs a campus in nearby Houston.
“It is of course my goal, and I will always try to be the best I can be, but it’s not going to change my life in terms of how I live it or what I’m going to do afterwards.
“I see a lot of happy drivers or people who haven’t won a championship. I think whatever you do on track shouldn’t influence your personal life.
“At least I would not be a sore, sad person if I would never win a championship. I will have a lot of things I can also do after Formula 1.
“For me Formula 1 is one part of your life, but actually the most important is what is outside of Formula 1. Maybe [some] people don’t really know how to deal with that.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, climbs out of his car in Parc Ferme
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
Part of his pragmatism also stems from the fact that F1 drivers are highly dependent on external factors on their quest for success, an unsurpassable reality he is already intimately familiar with.
He was widely tipped to become F1’s youngest world champion after his record-breaking maiden win at the age of 18, at an unforgettable 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, but five years on the 2021 season has been his first genuine opportunity to challenge Hamilton and Mercedes, with Red Bull finally able to deliver the equipment to go head-to-head with F1’s dominant force.
That allowed Verstappen to enter the final six races of 2021 with a slender six-point lead on the seven-time world champion, but he says he won’t suffer nightmares if Hamilton ends up pipping him at the post.
“If I can say later on ‘I’ve won the world championship’ then great, is it amazing and something you dream of, but if it doesn’t materialise because of obvious reasons – where you didn’t have the right package to do so or it just didn’t click or you were unlucky, then so be it,” he added.
“It’s not like I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night because of having nightmares about it.
“For me it will not change my life.”
ExxonMobil Red Bull Racing graphic
Photo by: ExxonMobil