The latest son-of-a-former-F1-driver to break into motor sport himself, Max Verstappen is following in the footsteps of his father Jos by competing for Van Amersfoort Racing in Formula 3. The sixteen year old has already taken his first victory in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, and sits fourth in the Drivers’ standings after the first three events.
Max’s father Jos competed for Benetton, Simtek, Arrows and Minardi in his Formula 1 career, claiming two podium finishes as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate in the 1994 season. However the younger Verstappen will want to avoid the pitfalls that befell his father. He was rushed into the Benetton drive in ‘94 when confirmed driver JJ Lehto crashed and injured his neck, ruling the Finnish driver out for a few races. It was clear he was not ready, and despite two podium finishes, Benetton did not retain him for 1995.
Max will want to be ready for Formula 1, should he get there. He made his karting debut at seven years of age, and made his move into international karting competition in 2010. He finished second racing for the CRG team in the KF3 World Cup, while he won the WSK Euro series crown. He retained his WSK Euro series title in 2011, and then stepped up to KF2 level for 2012, winning the WSK Master Series and finishing second in the World Cup. In 2013 he raced to the KF2 class European Championship title, while finishing third in the KF1 World Championship.
It is still surprising that Max only made his debut in a single-seater series in the Florida Winter Series this past winter; a series that was hosted by the Ferrari Formula 1 team. In his first race weekend of the series, he took top spot in qualifying, and during the twelve race series he took two wins at Palm Beach and Homestead.
Frits van Amersfoort, the team founder of van Amersfoort Racing, was full of praise for his driver, and knows although he is still learning, the potential is there to be a big name in motorsport.
“2014 is all about learning for Max; there are some tough races ahead of him, [and] he still has to learn a thing or two,” said van Amersfoort. “However, Max is a fast learner and I have a lot of confidence in him. After all, he is only sixteen and he deserves to take some time to adapt and learn.
After his maiden win in the championship at Hockenheim at the end of a trying weekend, Frits van Amersfoort compared Verstappen with a Brazilian driver from Formula 1’s history, and although no names were mentioned, it could only be the legendary Ayrton Senna.
“Today we witnessed something special from this Dutch kid. He always remains calm and collective and I hope with all my heart he can drive his way to the very top. I won’t mention names be he reminds me of huge talent from the past, a Brazilian…”
Assisting Max with his career is his father Jos, and the elder Verstappen is extremely proud about how his son’s career in single seating motorsport has begun.
“He picks new things up rapidly,” said Jos of his son. “Just think about it, last year he drove for the first time with a manual transmission kart and now he wins a race in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Considering the high level of competitiveness in the series, that’s an incredible achievement. And don’t forget, his performance will draw attention as the Euro F3 is a very important category. I genuinely think he is adapting to things quicker than I did in my time. So I’m really happy”.
From what has been seen in his very short career so far, it seems that Max Verstappen is the latest talent on the recent up swing of Dutch motorsport. Having seen Giedo van der Garde and Robin Frijns reach F1 level, as either race or test drivers, Max could well be the next. At sixteen he has his career ahead of him, but the initial signs are positive.
Max Verstappen – remember his name, he appears to be developing into someone pretty special.