‘Sadness in his eyes’: Ex-F1 driver feels ‘sorry’ for Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen is contracted to race for Red Bull until 2028, when he could retire from the sport.

2022 was well and truly Max Verstappen’s year, with the Dutchman having been completely imperious across the calendar.

With 15 wins and 454 points, the 25-year-old claimed the records for most wins in a single season and most points scored in a single year, highlighting his pure dominance this campaign.

Despite this, his feats haven’t been completely respected at times this year, with the Dutchman having faced boos at certain events this season.

He was unsurprisingly booed at the British Grand Prix, following his intense rivalry with home hero Lewis Hamilton in 2021.

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However, the Red Bull star was also heavily booed after the season finale in Abu Dhabi, from a large number of Sergio Pérez fans.

Mexican fans have turned on the Red Bull driver after Verstappen defied team orders at Interlagos, where he refused to let Pérez overtake him on the final lap.

After winning at the Yas Marina Circuit, Verstappen was booed whilst giving a post-race interview as well as on the podium, with ex-F1 driver Jan Lammers being left to feel “sorry” for his fellow Dutchman.

“With all his dominance this year, I still feel a bit sorry for him when he is booed,” Lammers told NOS.

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“What do they want from a racing driver? If you’re really a motorsport fan, I wonder – ‘how much better do you want it?’

“When it happens, I think I see a kind of sadness in his eyes. He’s just talking but you can see him thinking ‘What’s this?’ I think that’s sad, but luckily he can rise above it and perform above it.”

As well as boos and jeers, Verstappen has been subject to an onslaught of online abuse as of late, following the incident at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It’s considered to be something the Dutch driver has had enough of, especially with his family having also been targeted.

It is a real possibility that Verstappen could even leave the sport in 2028 once his contract expires, with the online abuse he’s suffered recently having made him consider his future in the sport.

“It’s not only related to that, to be honest,” said the Dutchman.

“But I won’t be here when I’m 40, that’s for sure.”

The double World Champion was criticised by Checo fans once again after the season finale, with some having questioned if the Dutchman could’ve held up Charles Leclerc, who the Mexican was battling for second in the Drivers’ Championship.

Leclerc ended up claiming P2 after finishing behind Verstappen at Abu Dhabi, with Pérez finishing third.

Oddly, during the race, Checo told his team that Verstappen was holding him up, something Lammers labelled as a “very unique statement” and a “little crazy”.

“I thought it was a very unique statement when he said Max held him up,” Lammers added.

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“I thought it was a little crazy.

“He got too much out of his tyres at the start and paid the price. Max is so consistent with his times that sometimes Perez pushes too hard, while Max just neatly does his laps like clockwork.

“Fans of other drivers may blame him for sometimes attacking or defending too hard, but he’s a racer through and through,” added Lammers. “So I’m very aware of how special what we are seeing now is and how inspiring he is to so many people.”