It is no surprise that this season has been dominated by the Dutch Lion himself, Max Verstappen. Since the beginning of the season, Verstappen claimed dominance by earning a podium in the first 14 races of the season. With all the success during the season so far, there’s bound to be some criticism.
Many often refer to Verstappen as Red Bull’s “golden boy” and has often received criticism for being the favorite driver of the team due to the strategies that often seem to favor him. Criticism for Verstappen was at an all time high during the 2021 season after joining forces with Sergio Perez for the first time as teammates. During the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix one of these strategies came into play when the team gave the Red Bull driver Sergio Perez the order to move aside to let Verstappen take the lead. The radio message showed clear disappointment when he said “That's very unfair, but okay... I am happy for the team, but we need to speak later.” In a post race interview, team principal Christian Horner accredited Perez for being a team player by following the team orders. Many will say that Perez is to credit for Verstappen’s first world title for how he helped fight off Hamilton during the season, especially during the last yet controversial race in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen first made his mark in the F1 world in 2015 at the Australian Grand Prix for the former junior Red Bull team Toro Rosso at the age of 17. Two weeks later after his debut, he scored his first set of points at the Malaysian Grand Prix by finishing in seventh place. Since then he has proven himself to be a dominant driver and continues to push the limit when it comes to racing.
Fast forward to the 2023 season and Verstappen started the season as the reigning world champion after having won the title for the 2022 season. When the season began, Red Bull and Verstappen hit the ground running. The team as a whole won the first 14 races together, meaning that either Verstappen or Perez claimed the first place podium at each race. Due to this commitment, the team broke the record of consecutive wins by a team by achieving 15 wins in a row from the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.
Just like many other athletes have experienced, if you are good at the sport there is always some backlash to be expected. Before heading to the Mexican Grand Prix it had been announced that Verstappen would have additional security than usual. Verstappen’s victory at the U.S Grand Prix in Austin the week prior was not something that was celebrated by many fans. In light of this situation, the team found it to make sense since there were going to be many of those who did not like Verstappen, especially at Perez’s home race.
An athlete who receives hate or criticism is usually taken as the highest form of flattery. If an athlete has shown that they are the best at their sport, there will always be those who do not like them and would prefer their favorite team, favorite player, or in this case, favorite driver to be the best at the sport. Many may not like him but Max Verstappen has shown through his talent and dedication that he deserves to be one of the best on the grid. He has gracefully taken the backlash received by many and decided to use it as fuel to push him to continue to be the best on the track. It is no surprise that with his talent Verstappen will undoubtedly have his name written in the history books whether it is as an enemy to some or a hero to others.