Anyone who has watched Max Verstappen on Formula 1 television or taken to Twitter knows his method of getting a point across. While most drivers button up their shirts during television interviews, he will reach up and offer to wiggle his arms. He does it to appear casual, to thumb his nose at the interviewer, who will inevitably ask, “Who’s that?”
While other drivers arrive at the top of the rankings for gluttony or charm, Verstappen excels on an entirely different level: on a one-to-one level. He gives the impression that if the car isn’t working, he has no problem just handing it to the next person to take the wheel — just as he did in Germany, when a mechanic took his hands off his steering wheel before the pressure was released. The mechanic seemed genuinely shocked, and seemed a tad afraid of what would happen if he lost his hand (witnessing that direct-to-object-to-partner command sent a shiver down the spine of my mother).
While his mother-hands-off incident was surely mean spirited, it’s no accident that he likes to do that. If a team has a bad car, he is the only one who figures it out without taking a deep breath first. In a time when all of the other teams are steadily improving, one of the best drivers in Formula 1 is still a brand new world junior champion in junior motocross.
Before he really made his debut on the sport, he wasn’t very good. Then he started racing for Red Bull, and the results took off. Even in two very long seasons of almost nothing but his wings, he is still up front, even if he doesn’t always get much traffic.
He is a boy who believes he can do anything. He believes he can shrug off bad hair days. He can throw back his eyebrows without a smirk and make it look as if he is taking the whole picture in his eye.
He might be bored. It sure seems as if he is even more bored when he is front and center on TV.
Or he might be self-centered. For the worst part of his comments during the pits are those that really hammer home the “why, me worry?” approach to things. His description of the moment is, “It’s just a pity they weren’t there.” And as if it weren’t clear that this was the Red Bull team not the other, Verstappen derides, “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Whatever the case, in one of his greatest performances, he beat one of the better drivers of all time, Fernando Alonso, in a qualifying race and put his name on the pole in Austria. Alonso, after all, won the pole in Monaco a couple of years ago but didn’t qualify for the race. After finishing 15th in that race, Alonso responded by bringing his team a four-hour curfew.
As of Monday morning, Verstappen was at the top of the standings for the first time in his career. Being a sophomore in the Formula 1 field is hard, but there is one class that Verstappen excels in: freshmen.