It is said to be difficult to access and not very talkative, it is not so. However, the young man who comes to us did not look like he had a good day coming out of the paddocks, after a disappointing qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix. Fifteen minutes later, he is inclined to conversation, surprisingly wise and disarmingly phlegmatic. “It’s not the end of the world”, tempers, philosopher, the one who will finish on the podium 24 hours later. It must be said that he was belted in the bucket of a go-kart at the age of 4, before even knowing how to read or write. In 2015, the son of former driver Jos Verstappen started in F1. He’s 17, and he doesn’t have a driver’s license yet. By becoming world champion at 24, he ended Lewis Hamilton’s six-year reign. A feat. But, to mark his sport, he must now go on – six times, at least – to equal Schumacher’s record. Meet.

The Point: Your mother likes to say that you learned to drive before you could even read and write. When was your calling born?

Max Verstappen: Early, very early! I started racing when I was 4.5 years old. Probably because my parents were pilots themselves, but mostly because I saw the other kids having fun. My father, an ex-F1 driver, also had a karting team. When I realized that one of the children was younger than me, I begged my parents to let me drive. After a few weeks of resistance, they agreed to strap me into a tub. A revelation !

Were you as competitive in school?

No, I didn’t really like school. I didn’t aim to be top of the class. My weeks were punctuated and brightened by my training weekends at the kart tracks.

Your father trained you for a long time. How would you describe the “Verstappen method”? I hope it was “softer” than the “Williams method”!

(Laughter.) I was trained the hard way, but the result is there. From an early age, my father made me a hard worker and a professional athlete. He taught me selflessness and perseverance. One goal: to be as good and as strong as possible at a time when the idea of ​​joining Formula 1 was still uncertain as places were scarce.

What would you do if you weren’t an F1 driver?

Something related to this universe.

Does toughness help make champions?

There is no a miraculous recipe. Each person is different. Some collapse, others reveal themselves. For me, I needed it.

You are coming out of a difficult qualifying session. Still, you seem in a good mood. How can such a calm man have such an aggressive drive?

It’s like that. There are days with and days without. I’m used to it and don’t let the vagaries of the race overwhelm me. You have to take a step back and tell yourself that, in any case, it’s not the end of the world.

What phlegm!

I love what I do in F1 and I always try to do the best I can, but there’s no extra pressure.

If it were enough to start to deliver, it would be known! Places are expensive in F1, all the drivers are excellent.

Not without provocation, Teddy Mayer, who was the boss of the McLaren team, said: “Drivers are just interchangeable light bulbs. You plug them in and they do the job. What room is there left in F1 for driver talent?

It’s nice to hear (laughs)! If it was enough to start to deliver, it would be known! Places are expensive in F1, all the drivers are excellent. Let’s say that to win you need the best driver in the best car.

Exactly, there are good drivers and great drivers, but what makes a champion?

Talent and hard work.

Ocon, Gasly, maybe Pourchaire next season, there is no shortage of French drivers. Which would you like to have by your side at Red Bull?

None ! Sergio Perez is the ideal partner.

You are one of the rare drivers on the circuit to benefit from a long-term contract with your team, which binds you until 2028. Is this a source of satisfaction?

Yes, I re-signed earlier in the season with Red Bull and I’m delighted. We wanted to continue the adventure together.

What do you think of the FIA’s recent ban on the wearing of watches and jewelry on the circuit?

There’s not much to say, that’s the rule. Personally, I’ve never worn competitive watches or jewelry. Performance also depends on the power to weight ratio. Many riders go through training to gain precious grams before the race. The idea of ​​becoming heavier does not therefore make much sense.

Do you like watches?

I’m enjoying it! I am very connected to TAG Heuer. Last year, I received an ultra-light titanium Monaco the day before the Monaco Grand Prix. The next day, I won this race for the first time in my career, before winning my first world championship title. I made it my lucky charm. Since then, my collection has grown. In particular, I have a reissue of the famous Dark Lord from 1974. It was made of titanium coated with black DLC and flocked with the number 1, like the position I like to have on arrival!

Albert Camus said: “What I know of morality, I owe it to football. What life lesson do you learn from Formula 1?

I’ve lived for Formula 1 for over twenty years. It taught me the meaning of the word commitment. Not the investment, no, the full commitment. The hardest part was the late teens, when my friends were starting to party, have fun, take flight and all of that had to be ignored. It was then that I tamed loneliness and developed my mental strength. The life of a young pilot has nothing to do with that of a young adult. Even today, people do not imagine how much loneliness is a part of our daily lives. That said, I’m not going to complain. I love my life and I’m more than happy with the turn of events.