I'm an F1 enthusiast who has followed the sport since childhood. During all those years, I gained loads of knowledge about Formula 1.
Verstappen Had a Successful Junior Career
Max Verstappen was already at a very young age seen by many as one of the upcoming stars of Formula 1. Being so dominant through all the junior categories earned him a spot in Red Bull's driver academy. And having answers in our hands, what a successful match it was for both Red Bull and Verstappen.
The team principal Christian Horner and Helmut Marko, Red Bull's advisor of the driver academy, have seen the massive potential of the young dutchman and thus chose to sign him early in his career. Thanks to that, Max Verstappen quickly got a chance in F1.
At that time he was just 17 years old which is something extraordinary. Verstappen is forever known as the youngest driver to make a start in Formula 1. Back then, he was driving for the Torro Rosso, which at that time was Red Bull's junior team, nowadays renamed as Alpha Tauri.
Verstappen's First Victory in Formula 1
Verstappen's time at Torro Rosso showed incredible potential, and it was no secret that Red Bull planned to move him up to the top team as soon as possible. That happened during the 2016 season when the driver duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat raced for the team. While Ricciardo did perform at a high level, his teammate was not.
After Kvyat's several bad races, Red Bull decided it was the right time to do something about their driver lineup. As you may expect no other than Max Verstappen was in the picture. He got the chance and got promoted from Torro Rosso up to Red Bull. That happened before the Spanish Grand Prix.
While Red Bull had a lot of promises in Verstappen, no one thought he would win his first-ever F1 race on his debut in the top team, but that is precisely what happened. After the Mercedes rivals, Hamilton and Rosberg, collided in the opening lap, no other than Verstappen would make it to the chequered flag in the first position and thus get on the top step of the podium for the very first time in his career.
After that weekend, everyone knew that there was something special with Verstappen. A natural talent with driving skills of the highest rank was slowly building his career.
The Long Road to the Title
The following years were everything except smooth for Verstappen. His hunger for victories and a never-ending will to perform well every single weekend did not fully align with the car Red Bull had at the moment, a car that was not really in the fight for the championship. A tough fact Verstappen had to swallow for a couple of years before he eventually got a proper chance for the title fight.
Verstappen is establishing himself in Formula 1 and takes his second and third Grand Prix victories. These came in Malaysia and Mexico. Car was far from championship contention, and Verstappen finished in the 6th place.
Verstappen experiences a tough beginning to the season. At the same time, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo is enjoying one of his career's best moments, claiming wins in both the Chinese and the mighty Monaco Grand Prix. He, however, managed to turn the season around and finish ahead of the Australian, who decided to leave Red Bull for Renault in the upcoming season.
For the first time, Verstappen has to work alongside a new teammate in the top team. While the newcomer Pierre Gasly struggles to understand the Red Bull car, Verstappen is enjoying his career highs, winning both the Austrian and German Grand Prix and putting a little bit of pressure on the top team Mercedes.
Gasly leaves the team after not delivering the results. He goes back to Torro Rosso, swapping places with Alexander Albon, who gets the chance to show himself in Red Bull for the rest of 2019.
That was the first year during which Verstappen was considered a title challenger after the new Red Bull car showed a lot of potential during the winter testing. But the season, compromised and shortened by the corona pandemic, did start in the worst possible way for the dutchman after he needed to retire the car in the opening race. After that, Verstappen and Red Bull never found a way to put real pressure on the Mercedes team, whose pace was again light years away. But there was something in the air, and Red Bull started to build for 2021 instead.
Finally, the 2021 season was a real nail-biter. For the first time since 2014, Mercedes founds itself on the back foot and has to work harder than ever to keep itself in championship contention. But after Mercedes controversially won the British Grand Prix, with Hamilton taking the win after crashing into Max Verstappen in a massive high-speed shunt, the dice switched in Mercedes's favor.
After that, Mercedes and Red Bull and their drivers Hamilton and Verstappen were involved in one of the most dramatic title fights in the modern era of Formula 1. The title decider arrived, not so unsurprisingly, in the last lap of the year. Ultimately, Verstappen managed to overtake Hamilton and took home his first World Championship.
At the start of the season and with new technical regulations, Verstappen found himself in an exciting fight with the Ferrari drivers. But the Maranello squad seemed to have a slightly better, more functioning car. After some unfortunate DNFs, Verstappen's chances for the championship seemed very low, if not even unreal.
But after some heroic performances, he switched the title fight in his favor. Since that, Verstappen completely dominated the rest of the season. He claimed his second World Championship at the Suzuka Grand Prix, winning for the 12th time in the season.
Will Verstappen Win More Titles?
Without a doubt, Verstappen is a driver to be compared with the biggest and most successful drivers in Formula 1 history.
Whether we talk about Fangio, Clark, Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Vettel, Hamilton, or Alonso – Verstappen has proven to be among these top drivers. He seems to be building a legacy that will last for generations.
Being just 25 years old and already such an icon of the sport and a hero in his country, it's no rocket science that Verstappen has a great chance to win many more titles in his name and become the most successful driver of all time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Jan Stepan