Max Verstappen is one of the best-known figures in motorsport.
The Red Bull driver is currently fighting to win his first Formula 1 (F1) World Championship. His rival, Lewis Hamilton, has already won seven titles in his career.
The Abu Dhabi GP, on Sunday, December 12, is the final race of the 2021 calendar and will be a winner takes all battle, with both drivers coming into the race on the same number of points: 369.5.
As we await the outcome of the season, here are 10 things you may not know about Verstappen, from his favorite food to how he likes to spend his vacations.
He was born in Belgium, but competes in F1 with a Dutch license
Max Emilian Verstappen was born on September 30, 1997 in Hasselt, Belgium. He is the son of Dutchman Jos Verstappen, a former F1 driver, and Belgian Sophie Kumpen, who is also a former kart racer.
To the surprise of many, Verstappen grew up in Belgium (in the town of Bree) and even traveled with a Belgian passport, according to Nieuwsblad.
So why is he competing in F1 with a Dutch license? Indirectly, it was thanks to his father.
“I’ve lived in Belgium all my life, but I feel more Dutch. Because of all the karting I spent more time with my father than with my mother,” he told Nieuwsblad in 2014.
“I’m always among the Dutch,” he said.
In 2021, the Dutch GP returned to the F1 calendar, so Verstappen could celebrate his first home race.
The Belgian GP is also usually filled with his fans, who cross the border to watch him.
Max Verstappen learned the hard way from his father
Jos Verstappen played a pivotal role in his son’s racing career, having started him in karting when he was just four years old.
“It wasn’t that nerve-wracking, as when he was two he was driving a quad bike, so he had experience with speed, how to steer,” his dad said in an interview with Red Bull.
At the age of seven, Max Verstappen was already racing and winning. Over a 10-year period, he even drove up to 100,000 kilometers per year with his father to stay on the track.
And although the young driver loved what he did, Jos had to teach him some lessons the hard way.
“In a 2012 world championship race, I crashed and lost the championship,” Max said.
“I was upset, but my dad was really upset and disappointed. I had to pick up the go-kart off the side of the track as my dad said I had to do it myself. I wanted to talk to him about what had happened, but he did not want to talk to me. I kept trying, and at one point, at a gas station, he said, ‘Get out, I don’t want to talk to you anymore.'”
During an interview with ex-driver David Coulthard in 2020, Verstappen recalled a story from the PFI World Championship when he was younger.
“I was driving like a potato,” Max said. So his dad hit him hard in the helmet.
“What are you doing? We’re here, it’s the world championship, and I think we can win it,” Jos said.
“If you don’t drive normal, we go home. I pack up everything,” said Max, mimicking his father at the time.
Verstappen went on to win the tournament.
He became an F1 driver before he got his driver’s license
The ToroRosso team (now known as AlphaTauri) signed Verstappen in 2014, when he was just 16 years old, making it illegal for him to drive in Belgium at the time.
“I signed with ToroRosso and got a Clio RS at home, but I still didn’t have my driving license yet, so it was just standing around a bit,” he said in a video posted on F1’s YouTube channel.
His F1 debut came in March 2015, when he was 17 years old. However, he did not yet have his license.
Verstappen told Red Bull that he had trouble with his driving instructor, and he was prepared to bribe him if needed.
“My driving instructor was very strict, which was good,” he said.
“I was prepared – I had caps and T-shirts ready in case someone needed to be bribed, but he didn’t take it!”
Drivers now have to be at least 18 to compete in F1, a rule known as the “Verstappen Rule.”
He is one of the world’s best FIFA players
One of Max Verstappen’s favorite pastimes is video games, and he’s actually one of the best FIFA players in the world.
According to the FIFA Futwiz statistics site, the F1 driver — who went by the online gamer tag “crgboy007” — ranked 21st in the world in the FIFA Ultimate Team game mode in January 2019, also reaching 31st in the world in August 2018.
The Dutchman has also played against Lando Norris, another F1 driver and video game lover, and he even has his own channel on, beating Lando in all three matches they played.
Red Bull Racing boss Chistian Horner revealed that Verstappen racked up 14 hours of gaming during the 2021 US GP weekend.
“There’s probably quite a lot you don’t know about Max,” he said.
He is a PSV and FC Barcelona fan
Verstappen’s love of soccer isn’t limited to video games, as he also has a few clubs he loves.
“I love soccer. My favorite team in Holland is PSV Eindhoven, but let’s say, internationally, it’s FC Barcelona,” he said in an interview with DAZN.
His first F1 win gave his dad a nosebleed
Verstappen was promoted to the Red Bull team in May 2016, only four races into the season.
The Dutchman ended up winning the Spanish GP, his debut race with the Austrian team, and made history by becoming the youngest driver ever to win an F1 Grand Prix.
“I started cramping with five laps to go, just with the excitement and the focus,” he told Red Bull.
“It was crazy. There was a lot of pressure. My dad’s nose started bleeding. I can’t even imagine how it was sitting in the driver’s room watching the final laps unfold.”
On vacation, Verstappen enjoys motorsport activities
After spending most of the year traveling the world to compete in Grand Prix races, many would think that drivers take advantage of their time off to relax and do something different. That’s not the case with Verstappen.
In an interview with Edwin Evers, he said that even on holiday he likes to do things involving a motor.
“I like racing around in quads or buggies. I really enjoy doing things like that. Go-karts, for example,” he said.
“I like to drive something that’s not an F1 car,” he added.
Verstappen also said that what he enjoys most about these activities is being in control, and so things like skydiving do not appeal to him at all.
His favorite food is Italian but he has a weakness for Dutch food
In another interview with Edwin Evers, Verstappen said his favorite food is Italian, although he also has a weakness for Dutch cuisine.
“When I’m back home I’ll have fries with onions and ketchup or curry sauce. And a frikandel,” he said.
Frikandel is a dish from Belgium, the Netherlands, and northern France that consists of a fried sausage with ketchup, curry sauce, mayonnaise, and chopped onions.
Verstappen isn’t particularly adventurous with food, however. He prefers to go for dishes that he already knows rather than trying new things.
“If I don’t like it, I’ll order something else,” he said.
He had to Google his name once to get into a circuit
Verstappen is currently battling with Hamilton for the F1 World Championship, so it sounds unlikely that someone wouldn’t recognize him.
At the Singapore GP in 2018, however, Verstappen recalled how he had to Google his own name and find a photograph of himself to get the security guard to let him through as he’d forgotten his pass.
“I was not allowed to run on the track because I didn’t have my pass, so I showed myself on Google to the guys like ‘I’m the driver, I want to get on the track,'” he said.
He has his own song that’s recognized around the world
When Verstappen races in the Dutch, Belgian, or Austrian Grand Prix, the “Orange Army” (as his fans call themselves) are sure to be there singing the “Super Max” song.
The song was composed in 2016 by three fans — Marco Mars, Rob Toonen and Jeroen Hilgenberg — who call themselves the Pitstop Boys.