In the space of a year, Max Verstappen has set himself apart as a future F1 great.
“I myself am surprised by the overtakes he does. He surprises me every time,” father Jos, a former F1 driver and once the great Michael Schumacher’s teammate, said.
For 43-year-old Dutchman Jos, however, victory never came in F1, and now he is determined that his 18-year-old son achieves more.
It is why he has turned down a potential return to sports car racing for 2016, in order to continue to follow Max around the F1 calendar next year as well.
“My role is basically to keep my eyes and ears open and do what I can to help Max keep going up,” Jos told De Limburger newspaper.
“I learned a lot from my mistakes, and am trying to save Max from repeating them. This is all about him now. So that he ends up with a top team.”
In truth, Max impressed so much on debut this year that, although firmly under contract to Red Bull, he probably could have secured a top seat already for 2016.
Jos said Toro Rosso is the right place for now, though.
“Max is still young,” he said. “Another year at Toro Rosso is best for him. It’s better that his career builds up quietly. Another year to learn, then he is ready.”
Indeed, Max did make mistakes this year — the biggest being the crash at Monaco.
“When I got out, I thought ‘Quite a strong car’. But it only gave me more confidence,” he said.
It is that burgeoning character, calm and toughness both on and off the track that, whilst still a teenager, is earning Max fans throughout the F1 world and beyond.
He said stepping up to F1 never fazed him.
“Behind the wheel you’re still on your own,” said Max. “The only difference is that in karts there is one guy writing about it and now I have to explain everything 300 times.”
Jos also says he witnessed his boy become a man in 2015, as they began the season sharing a hotel room.
“I thought that was normal,” the 18-year-old, who now has a girlfriend and has moved to Monaco, smiled. “I don’t need a driver anymore!” he laughed, referring to his newly-acquired road driving licence.
“But really not much else has changed in our relationship,” said Max, referring to his dad. “For me it is important that he is there.”
Jos agrees: “If he no longer wants me there anymore, I am sure he will tell me. But I don’t think it will come to that. We have been through so much together.”
Max has already set a target of 100 points and a podium for 2016, but he is willing to push the boundaries even further by eyeing a world title in the future.
“Yeah, and if possible several times,” he said. “I don’t think it will happen soon.
“But the record is seven, which is ambitious, but you have to have a goal.”
Interestingly, Verstappen also singles out Sebastian Vettel – not the current world champion Lewis Hamilton – as an example of how he wants to achieve his success.
“Fast, clean, private, no scandals, no worries over his head,” Max said, referring to the Ferrari driver and quadruple world champion.
“It is important to have peace and Vettel does it perfectly,” Verstappen added. “I hope I can keep myself remembering where I came from, happy that I was able to turn my hobby into my job.
“Relaxed, the right people around me. If not, I’m sure my father will let me know.”