‘At the time it was a bit tough’: Max Verstappen opens up on tough love from his father

Christian Horner believes that Max Verstapen's high-discipline upbringing is part of the reason for his championship success last year.

Jos Verstappen has received praise from 1996 world champion Damon Hill and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner for the way in which he has raised his son, and now world champion, Max.

Jos claimed two podiums in a career that took him to teams such as Benetton and Arrows, and ended in 2003 after 106 starts since 1994.

There are certainly much worse racing CVs out there than that, but in 1997 his then-partner Sophie Kumpen, gave birth to a son who would go on to make history.

Verstappen partook in his first practice session at just 16 years of age at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014, and was then given a drive alongside Carlos Sainz at Toro Rosso ahead of the 2015 season, bypassing Formula 2 in the process – the belief from Red Bull in this young megastar was unshakeable.

After Daniil Kvyat’s incidents with Sebastian Vettel in the early part of 2016, the Dutchman was promoted while the Russian stepped back into the junior fold from which he himself had arrived.

The then 18-year-old became the youngest-ever race winner on his debut for the Milton Keynes side at that year’s Spanish Grand Prix, and just under six years on from that remarkable day, he can now call himself a world champion.

He defeated Sir Lewis Hamilton to the crown at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in dramatic circumstances, and has recently spoken of Jos pointing to an F1 podium when he was young and telling him “that’s where we need to go.”

However, a wise, cool collected head was also undoubtedly needed, and Hill recognises the touch of realism required in the 24-year-old’s dream adventure.

“It’s very easy to believe the fantasy and the dream of what is needed to be a racing driver,” he told a new Sky Sports documentary named Duel: Hamilton vs Verstappen.

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“But I think you need someone like Jos, someone who’s been there to know the hard truths.”

The 20-time race winner once spoke of his father driving home without him after an argument following a karting crash, meaning he needed to call his mother to pick him up.

While it may seem unduly harsh on what was at the time a child, Max maintains this tough love was necessary.

“I needed it [Jos’ tough approach] as well,” he added.

“Now I’m happy that everything was like that back in the day. At the time it was a bit tough, but now I can laugh about it.”

Horner is a big fan of his driver’s upbringing, and credits it with a portion of the Dutchman’s extraordinary title victory last season.

“Jos wouldn’t accept anything other than Max’s best,” he explained.

“And I think that really defined and shaped Max in terms of how he approaches going racing.”

Verstappen is set to defend his title this year racing alongside Sergio Perez for the second season running. He has also recently signed a new contract until at least the end of 2028 that is reportedly worth $250 million.