Formula 1: With victory at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen remains unstoppable

The Dutchman achieved his 19th win of the year at the closing of the best season for a driver in the history of the event

Oriol Puigdemont
Max Verstappen during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.ALI HAIDER (EFE)

Practically everything has been said about Max Verstappen. However, one of the best descriptions that has been made recently about the three-time Formula 1 world champion – who seems destined to be known as the GOAT (the greatest of all time) alongside Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton – came from Sebastian Vettel:

“Max is a great driver, he adapts very quickly to any circumstance and is able to feel comfortable amid discomfort. He’s not one of those guys who get distracted in the morning thinking about what shoes he’s going to wear,” the German noted a few days ago, in a chat with Martin Brundle, a former racer and television commentator.

This quote perfectly reflects the psychology of a 26-year-old genius, who completely focuses on his sport in a way that only chosen ones can. When one of these aliens appears, they send out easily decipherable messages… which, in the case of Formula 1, are preserved forever in the book of statistics. And this year, “Mad Max” (as he is known) has left a mark that looks set to remain valid for a long time.

Climbing into what most rivals have called the most dominant car that has ever existed, Verstappen and Red Bull have broken a good handful of important records. The principal one is the number of victories in a single season. With his victory this past Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the stop that closed the calendar – he achieved his 19th win out of 22 races. This proportion represents an 86.3% success rate… the best percentage in the history of the sport, well ahead of the 75% established by Alberto Ascari in 1952. The Italian – who raced for Ferrari – won six of the eight competitions that were held that year.

At the Yas Marina circuit, Verstappen celebrated his 54th overall victory – a figure that allows him to surpass Vettel in the ranking of the most successful drivers ever. At the moment, he’s in the third position, only behind Schumacher (103) and Hamilton (91). In a race that he dominated from start to finish, the Red Bull champion gave none of his opponents a chance. In the process, he became the first racer to top more than 1,000 laps in a single year. He was accompanied on the podium by Charles Leclerc and George Russell, while Fernando Alonso finished seventh and Carlos Sainz dropped out.

This was the 21st podium for the wonder boy from Red Bull in 2023 – another record that surpasses the previous one of 18 in 2021... which was also his. His inertia has been brutal at all times, but especially from May to September of this year, when he racked up ten consecutive victories, the best winning streak anyone has ever achieved.

Red Bull hasn’t been left behind, either. With this latest victory in Abu Dhabi, the beverage giant has only missed one: the race that Carlos Sainz nabbed in Singapore, the same day that the British company’s racing team suffered an incomprehensible (and critical) engine problems. Those 21 wins out of a possible 22 represent an unprecedented record to-date, which joins the number of competitions won in a row (15).

“Max is only interested in racing in a car, because that’s what he likes,” Vettel continued. However, in the past, while many race car drivers avoided simulator work, Verstappen actually dedicates much of his free time to competing with Redline, his esports team. Of course, this virtual team also has Red Bull as a partner.

In an interview with David Coulthard, Verstappen noted that video games keep him in top condition. “It keeps me, you know, just ready to go. Because I’m spending a lot of time also then on the [real track]. I’m not racing a Formula One car in the simulator… it’s like GT cars. So it’s also a different technique of driving. I just keep testing myself, especially against these [online] drivers, they’re so quick.”

“It’s very interesting, because most of the rivals [online] have no experience in driving in real life… but when you analyze how they brake and how they maneuver, you realize that it’s exactly how it should be done,” the Dutchman continued. “I have natural speed in real life, but they have more than me in the simulators and that motivates me to try to beat them,” says the kid who has just had the best season in the history of F1.

“There are times when doing better doesn’t just mean achieving victories and titles. I’m sure our opponents will be preparing to beat us. We’ll do the same,” he stated calmly.

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