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Max Verstappen with the new TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph | Image: Supplied

‘That’s What F1 Needs’: Max Verstappen on Leading the Next Generation on F1 Stars

He’s the sport’s most enigmatic figure, but who is the man beneath the helmet? On the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix, Man of Many editor-in-chief Nick Hall caught up with Formula One star Max Verstappen to talk championship titles, rivalries and the pressure of expectation.

Three world championships, 59 Grand Prix victories and a record that stands near-unparalleled for his age; Max Verstappen has done it all. At just 26 years of age, the Dutch driving prodigy now stands shoulder to shoulder with the greats of Formula One, from Senna to Schumacher, Hunt to Hamilton, but that’s not to say he’s keeping score.

“I just try to really live in the moment, enjoy the moment,” the reigning F1 Drivers Champion tells me. “It is a bit of just like, “We will see what happens in the future’ because honestly, I don’t even want to know what will happen in the future. I think that would be quite boring.”

It’s been a remarkable journey. The son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen and go-kart racer Sophie Kumpen essentially slipped out of the womb and straight behind a steering wheel, dominating the junior circuit with a maturity that extended well beyond his years (the flying Dutchman famously had an F1 Grand Prix start in his back pocket before he had a certified driver’s license). But while you could easily chalk up Max Verstappen’s success to his rich pedigree, the reigning F1 Drivers Champion says he found his way to track on his own.

“It’s not like my parents pushed me into racing. I really wanted to do it myself,” Verstappen tells me. “Once we started to go at it, the advice from my dad was very helpful, as I was very young compared to other drivers. It’s been a great ride and it’s nice to be able to share it with your family, as well.

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Now a decade into his F1 journey, Verstappen is undoubtedly the sport’s most prodigious talent, kicking off the 2024 season in very much the same manner he finished the previous. The reigning champ notched Grand Prix victories at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, shattering records in the process. It’s hardly a surprise.

For F1 fans and indeed, rival drivers, watching Verstappen stand atop the podium, drenched in Ferrari Trento’s finest sparkling wine, has become an all-too-familiar sight. Truthfully, Max Verstappen stands head and shoulder above the competition, in every sense of the phrase.

“We hit the ground running really well from race one. I felt at ease with the car,” Verstappen says. “I have to say that now, of course, the last year’s races, the teams have been catching up quite a lot and it’s a lot harder to win races. It’s a challenge. It’s a very long season. A lot of things can happen, but for sure, the last three years for me, especially last year, have been really amazing.”

Dominant, calculated and undeservedly polarising, the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver is the media’s worst nightmare; an athlete completely and utterly enthralled with his sport. You won’t see Max Verstappen picking feuds on social media, fronting haute couture fashion shoots or hitting the Hollywood red carpet. In fact, it’s little wonder the F1 star declined to take part in the Netflix smash-hit Drive to Survive. In speaking with him, I get the sense that the 26-year-old is all business, fixated solely on the perpetual pursuit of performance.

“I love to be at home. We are travelling so much. Once I’m at home, no one can really disturb me. I’m just at peace with my family and friends.”

To that end, Verstappen makes a perfect muse for Swiss watchmaker and Oracle Red Bull Racing team partner TAG Heuer. The pair have been side by side for years, a connection that speaks not only to the precision and development of the maison’s remarkable timepieces but to Max’s unfaltering steadiness behind the wheel. If ever there was an athlete that embodied TAG Heuer’s ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’ ethos, it would be the steely-eyed Dutch assassin with three F1 Championship already to his name.

“It’s just trying to win more, especially when you have a great car, great team around you, you want to try and achieve more and more,” Verstappen tells me. “For sure from my side, in terms of targets and stuff, everything is being achieved. Because once you are on the top, you want to try and stay there as long as you can because you know that it’s not forever. That’s basically what we’re trying to do at the moment – Try to stay there.”

To do that, Verstappen will have to take on a new generation of driver superstars. At the Monaco Grand Prix over the weekend, Aussie young gun Oscar Piastri claimed a podium finish, just a few places ahead of 24-year-old teammate Lando Norris. With up-and-coming drivers making more of a splash than ever, the old guard is watching closely and Max Verstappen sits firmly between worlds. Experienced enough to lay claim to the throne and young enough to make sure he stays there a little longer, the F1 is Verstappen’s to lose but ever the competitor, he welcomes the challenge.

“It’s great. Some of them, I’ve seen myself; I raced against them. Some, they were maybe a few categories below, but you see a lot of incredible talent and that’s what F1 needs,” he explains. “Of course, it’s great to have the older guys that have achieved a lot, but to have that young talent come in and be really, really good and be challenging, it’s nice. The F1 is well-settled for the future.”

Despite having nothing left to prove, Max Verstappen is still hungry for more. The Dutch prodigy’s approach to racing borders on the obsessive, matched only by the intensity of his love for the sport. Just in speaking with him, you get a sense that this is what he was born to do and it would be impossible to imagine him in any other setting. For now, the title remains firmly in Max Verstappen’s grasp, and he’s not about to let it go any time soon.

Long live the king.

Disclaimer: The author of this article, Nick Hall, was invited to attend the Monaco Grand Prix as a guest of TAG Heuer for the purposes of this feature.