“I sometimes call Max the Dutch Justin Bieber”
Published on 05 May 2015 by Mike Motilall
Unreal, that’s what she calls it, to experience from up close, the enormous hype about her son. Sophie-Marie Kumpen, Max Verstappen’s mother, jokingly calls him the Dutch Justin Bieber. “A lot of girls have a crush on Max, boys want the same hairdo, at school there are exam questions on him and at the bus stops his photo is displayed. That’s pretty weird, when it’s all about your own son”, says Sophie on RedBull.com.
Sophie has told the Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie, when he entered the Formula 1, to make sure to enjoy himself. And he seems to be doing that to the fullest, she assures. Sophie: “It’s all going pretty fast with him, but it can all be over just like that. It is after all a sport. Max needs to realize how extraordinary the things are, that are happening to him at this moment in time. It doesn’t get any better than this in motorsports. I often tell him: Your peers are still going to school, while you get the chance to travel the world and turn a hobby into a full fledge profession. That is unique.”
At the Formula 1-races, Max is constantly accompanied by Jos, his father and mentor regarding motorsports. Sophie follows everything closely, but mainly from the safe environment of her own living room in the Belgian Maaseik. This season she has only been to Bahrain, together with her daughter and Max’ sister Victoria.
“During such a weekend you’re mostly sitting around and waiting. It was the same, when Jos was also driving in the Formula 1. Actually, I only want Max to do his thing and don’t bother him too much. How were you at seventeen? I am sure you didn’t want your mother constantly around the whole day? Nope, just let me stay at home. I want to give Max the space he needs. And of course we frequently use Whatsapp.”
She also witnessed the official Formula 1-debut of Max in Australia, on TV. Deliberately. “I didn’t want anyone around except my daughter and my little dogs. Some TV-networks wanted to come over and shoot but I turned them all down. Because I am also very nervous during Max’ races. Not that I am scared that something will happen to him, but I want everything to go without a hitch.”
From a distance she, luckily, can follow ever step closely and fully shares the joy, albeit in the background. She tries to read everything that is written about Max. On Verstappen.nl, international websites and in the Dutch newspaper ‘De Telegraaf’, but also on social media like Twitter and Facebook. For the F1-season, she specifically got a subscription with Sport1.
“It is nice to see and read everything, but I must confess that the comparison between Max and Ayrton Senna or Max and Michael Schumacher, is a bit exaggerated. Max’s Formula 1 race career is only a few races old. Besides, Max is Max. I see what people are referring to and there is a little bit of Senna in Max. I am then talking about the drive he has, because Max is also an aggressive driver. If he spots a gap, he jumps in it, with no doubt whatsoever. When Max is driving, something is bound to happen. But once again, he still needs to prove himself at this level of performance.”
She realizes that there will be times when, sportingly seen, all won’t be going as planned. “I have always made that clear to Max. Luckily, he knows how to take a beating. That was the case also during his karting days.” Sophie does notice that Max is changing a little. What do you expect, he is a teenager with the world at his feet?
“He cannot say any and all things or do as he pleases anymore. He has become less reckless now. But on the other hand: that is not something completely new for him as well. In a certain sense, it was the same during his karting days. From a tender age he saw how Jos dealt with everything. The most important thing is that he does not become a show off or starts being conceited. But I don’t see that happening, that would be out of character for him. By nature he is pretty much a loner.”
Moreover, he can be himself completely at his father’s or mother’s. “That tranquility is a nice balance to the commotion in the paddock. When he is with me, I often prepare his favourite meal: pasta, with a ham and cheese salad. And for the rest he does what every regular seventeen-year old does: having fun with his PlayStation. Strikingly he always chooses racing games.”
Sophie doesn’t think it will be a surprise if Max decides to get settled in Monaco in the future. She once lived there as well, in the years that her ex-husband, Jos Verstappen, was busy driving in the Formula 1. “I once jokingly said to Max: When it’s that time, your mom will come over to do the cleaning and cooking for you…”