Max and Jos in Talking Bull: 'After a few laps, the whole track flat out'

Published on 12 August 2020 by Mike Motilall

After winning the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Silverstone sensationally, Max Verstappen, together with his father Jos, were at Talking Bull. Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s podcast. In this episode we take a look on how well Jos prepared his son for the world that is called Formula 1.

Let’s start right back at the beginning: Max, what was it like having Jos as your father?
Max: “I just saw him as my dad and not as a Formula 1-driver. From a young age, before I even started myself, I saw a lot of racing around me, I was a lot on the go kart tracks and there was a lot of racing involved.”

Is there a standout moment from your father’s career?
Max: “I remember that I was in Malaysia when my dad was still racing in F1. I was also very little so for me it all looked like a playground.”

And Jos what do you remember of the first time you put Max in a kart?
Jos: “He was four and-a-half when we first put him in a kart. It was in Genk and it was on a rental circuit. It was with a very small go kart. We still have it, it’s hanging in the Verstappen shop in Swalmen where we sell all the merchandise. But I remember the first laps, he did the whole track flat out. Because of the vibration of the go kart, the carburetor was falling off all the time. We did it for one day, and immediately afterwards we bought a bigger go kart.”

What’s it like putting a four-year-old in a go kart and watching him drive away, was that a nerve wrecking moment?
Jos: “No, not really, from two-and-a-half  he was already driving a quad so he had some experience with speed and knew how to steer. We had done quite a lot of things already before we put him in a go kart.”

Max was seven years old when he started competing. How quickly did success come?
Both: “Immediately! We had prepared him very well. Two weeks ago, somebody sent me a picture from that race, it had been held in Emmen. He was seven and was competing with a lot more older boys.”

 

Jos, you were Max’ kart engineer, his engine kitter and father. What was it like to be focused on one goal together throughout his childhood?
Jos: “We were very motivated to succeed. For me it was a day job. I took Max to school and then went to the workshop to prepare the chassis and the engines, fit all the things together and arrange all the things we had to do. We often went to the go kart track two or three times a week.”

Max, how focused were you on your schoolwork with all this going on in the background?
Max: “I didn’t really enjoy school, but I knew it was important to try and do well there. I tried the best I could with of course travelling a lot. Especially when you start driving internationally, it becomes quite difficult to keep up to speed with school. When I was around eleven, twelve years old, it became very tricky.”

Your workshop looked like a professional outfit!
Jos: “We had to because we were competing with factory teams. We were also driving for a factory team but we did everything ourselves from the chassis setup to the engine as well. We had our own dyno to put the engines on. So we were always well prepared when we went racing. We knew exactly which engine was the best and which one to use during qualifying. Everything was already sorted, Max only had to set up the carburetor; that is a feeling a driver needs to have. I think Max was very good at that. He was very precise on what he liked to have on his go kart.”

Max, did you enjoy the mechanical side of karting as much as driving?
Max: “I am not the person who likes to work on the engine, that’s more the choice of my dad’s. I always loved the driving more, but I think it’s important that you understand what is going on. I was always involved, looking and trying to understand what he was doing. I never had the feeling of doing it myself.”

Do you think all F1-drivers have that feeling and does this give you an advantage?
Max: “No, I don’t think everyone is the same. I don’t think many had the guidance I had from an early age like I had. From a very young age I learned a lot.”

Jos, what have been the best moments over the years in terms of driving together and watching Max drive?
Jos: “For me it was when we won the European championship and the world championship in the KZ-class, and we did it all in the same year. And to be honest, every year we won a championship. I mean you do a lot of races. What I also liked was the time together in the van to all the races and the preparation you had to do before. I miss it now, but at that moment I really enjoyed it.”

Max is there anything that stands out for you?
Max: “The championships and victories. But what I will always remember are the trips going there and the travels. Honestly I would not do it again now. At the time it felt normal, now I cannot see myself travelling eight to ten hours in a van again.”

Was formula 1 always the destination for your career?
Max: “It was always the first target, but you never know how it’s going to work out of course.”

Jos, you have all the trophies there in the garage and the only one that is missing is the F1-driver’s championship.
Jos: “I hope one day Max will be a world champion. He has a lot of time to do that. I am sure that day will come. When we have the car to do that he will tick that off.”  

You sent him out in all weather conditions to make sure he got a feel for the track?
Jos: “Especially when you are young you have to see where to drive. Not only feeling but also looking at the circuit. You need to look at the corners, where it’s drier and where there is more grip. Every circuit is different and when it started to rain most of the people packed up and went home. We stayed and went on track. Nobody was there then so we had the track to ourselves. We did that a lot when Max was younger, but once you know what to do you don’t need to do it a lot anymore.”

Max, did your dad leave you at a racetrack once after a bad race?
Max: “Almost, at a fuel station. It was a world championship race in 2012. I think that was one of the easiest weekends of my career. We were so fast, but I still managed to not win it... In a heat on Friday I burned my clutch, so I retired. And I had to start tenth in the pre-final. Within a lap, I was second already and then I won the race with four seconds ahead of the of the number two. In the final after the first lap when I was in the lead, he got me on the straight. Because it was a very long straight, it was all about slipstreaming. He overtook me and then I decided that I wanted to overtake him back straightaway, because I wanted to be in de lead. It was a bit stupid and unnecessary because I crashed and did not become world championship.”

“I was upset of course, but my dad was really disappointed. My dad invested so much time already the years before. Preparing the engines, making sure that once I stepped up to the next category that everything would be ready to go. He broke down the tent in 10 minutes and threw everything in the van. I had to pick up the go-kart with a friend of mine on the track after the race because my dad said I had to do it myself. So we then set off in the van on our way back home. I wanted to talk to my dad about what happened, but my dad did not want to talk to me. I kept trying and suddenly he stopped at a fuel station and said: ‘get out, I do not want to talk to you anymore.”

Jos: “I knew that his mom was few kilometres behind us. So it is not that I was leaving him there on his own.”

Max: “You came back for me anyways. So it was all right.”

Jos: “I picked him back up. We drove 1800 kilometres back home, and I did not say a word to him. I think the whole week after that I did not speak to him. And then we were sitting together, I explained to him how I felt. To me it felt he did everything too relaxed. You know, it was all very easy for him. But I really wanted him to feel the pain. Because he had to think what he was doing. That was the last race of that season and the season afterwards we won everything. We won two European championships and a world championship. We won every race. He was so focused the way he was racing, you could see him thinking. Because of what happened at that race, it made him a better driver.”

Do you see elements of your dad's driving in your own?
Max: “Yeah, absolutely. I can be aggressive, but from my side, I think it is controlled aggressiveness. I just like to race hard, and my dad also did that. But I think I have a bit more finesse in my driving style. My dad wanted me to become better than him, so we tried to work on that.”

Jos: “He uses his head more and his driving style is more fluent. When I saw him take a corner too wild, I went there and told him to drive cleaner and take as much speed through the corner as possible. We already practiced that when he was very young.”

What's the best piece of advice that your dad has given you?
Max: “Stay with two feed on the ground and be yourself. That has been the most important over the years. If you have the right people around you, it will work out. We stay in touch every day.”

Jos: “There's a lot of things to discuss together with Raymond, the manager of Max and also my friend, we always discuss things together. And that will always be the case.”

Is a championship something you are looking forward to?
Jos: “That is our goal. That is why we are here. We are very happy where we are, but in the end of the day, we want to win the World Championship. That is what we are here for.”

Do those expectations help you Max?
Max: “For me that does not matter. I am just waiting to have a chance to fight for the championship. Every year you become a better driver as well. I like winning races and that is what you do it for.”

Jos, how has the sport changed since your driving days?
Jos: “Everything gets more professional. The way the team operates, that is completely different than in my time, but I like it. I like the competition. At the moment Mercedes is a little bit too fast,  but if they were a bit closer to the rest of the field, I think we could have some fantastic races. This year is a bit different with the Coronavirus going around. Hopefully, it will go back to normal next year. If they can make the cars to stay a little bit closer together, we will see a lot better races. And that is what people want to see.”

Max, it has been a dramatic couple of races, isn't it?
Max: “We maximised the results so far. It was a shame that we had a retirement in the first weekend, but I think overall we did we did well. Mercedes is a bit too dominant at the moment, but we just try not to lose too many points, and see what happens. And a bit of drama is always good.”

Last weekend you surpassed your father’s record in terms of race starts. How does that feel?
Max: “I do not really care so much about that, the number of starts. It was always the target to try to become better, to win races and we try to go for championship. So I think it is quite normal that if you want to do that, you are going to do 200 or 300 races in Formula 1. It is just the beginning.”

Who is your racing hero?
Max: “I never had one. Of course, my dad has been a great example, but for me, he is just my dad. I do not look at him all the time as a racing driver. I never had any posters in my room. I just had a cut out of my dad of cardboard. I respect everyone for what they have achieved in the sport, but I never had a hero.”

Jos: “I always said I do not have a hero, but I liked the way Ayrton Senna was racing. I liked his style and his attitude. But I also like the way how Max is racing. Aggressive but still using your head, that is the type of driver I always like.”