Written by Alis Manriquez, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
There are various reasons why a small child could get interested in motorsport, and aspire to be part of the pinnacle of motorsport: Formula 1. But, have we stopped to think about what drives a young man to be successful and consistent, professionally? Could inheriting the passion for racing from their family be the main reason for the success of some drivers?
Several drivers in the history of Formula 1 have been highly influenced by the careers of their families or relatives.
Carlos Sainz Jr, current Ferrari driver, is the son of Carlos Sainz Sr, a two-time World Rally champion, in 1990 and 1992.
Mick Schumacher, former Haas F1 driver, who will race in the World Endurance Championship next year, is the son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, an icon of the sport.
Nico Rosberg, former Formula 1 driver with a title in 2017, is the son of Keke Rosberg, 1982 Formula One world champion.
These are just a few examples, and another popular example, whom we will delve specifically into today, is the current Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen, the Dutchman who has already won three world championships, broken countless records and risen to become the innate leader of the top category championship.
A look back at his family tree reveals many familiar names in motorsport, such as his father Jos Verstappen, his mother Sophie Kumpen, grandfather Robert Kumpen, and even his current ‘father-in-law’, Nelson Piquet.
Robert Kumpen, Max's maternal grandfather, was always seen as a man who managed to develop himself in different areas of knowledge, all through his life.
He could be known as the man who began the racing journey in the Verstappen household. Although his father was familiar with motorsports, he worked on the technical side of the sport, and not as a driver.
As far as is known, the grandfather of the three-time champion raced karts in the late 80s and early 90s. He managed to stand out internationally, racing in kart championships across Europe, obtaining good results in comparison.
Younger drivers at that time competed alongside him. Despite having achieved strong positions, he did not go further.
Robert Kumpen began to organise international meetings, and was present in different championships to promote initiatives for young karting drivers. As we mentioned before, Kumpen Sr was a person with multiple sporting interests, so after his time in racing, he decided to bet on football, becoming a successful businessman and head of the KRC Genk football club (Koninklijke Racing Club Genk) of Belgium.
Max Verstappen's mother, Sophie Kumpen was an exceptional karting racer, and even more so, a mother with hero characteristics, which make her even more admirable.
She was considered to have a lethal talent, undoubtedly capable of reaching even the highest level of single-seaters, Formula 1.
Her racing career began at the age of 11, and Sophie had her father, and brother Paul Kumpen competing in front of her eyes, and it was more than enough reason. to increase her interest in motorsport.
The 90's were hers, she raced in karting competitions from 1991 to 1995, while Paul competed in the karting world championship for the first time in 1991, finishing in ninth place, before moving to Formula K, Formula Super A, and Formula A, and winning the Trophy Andrea Margutti with first place.
She competed against some big names such as Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, Jarno Trulli, Christian Horner, among others. “She was a fantastic pilot. I saw how she drove and she was very good,” said Jenson Button, former driver and Formula 1 champion, about Sophie Kumpen.
The current boss of Red Bull has also mentioned the driver a couple of times. “She was among the ten best karting drivers.” of the world, without a doubt,” he mentioned.
But it was in 1996 she met and married Jos Verstappen, Max's father, and Sophie's life changed when she gave birth to her children, so she knew she had to make a decision.
Although she had already tested some cars, and looked to continue on her quest to reach Formula 1, she abandoned her career and concentrated on her family.
She accompanied Max Verstappen throughout his entire career around the world, providing moral support, the fruit of his great success.
The Dutchman’s mother has since spoken of her son’s career taking off as one of the moments of satisfaction and greatness, and in one way or another, her dream lives on thanks to her son’s exploits in the sport.
Although Jos did not achieve perfect performance, or race for a big name, he was characterised by his great driving skills, as well as his bad luck with car problems.
At the age of eight, he was junior karting champion in the Netherlands, and won two European titles, and in 1993, the Formula 3 Championship in Germany.
In 1994 he began his time in the top category, driving for Benetton, Arrows, Tyrrell, Stewart and Jaguar, and was also signed for the Italian Minardi team in 2003, among others.
His best season came driving the Arrows car, accumulating 17 points, during a season when only the top six were awarded points, and even took a podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
On the other hand, he was involved in one of the most disastrous incidents. In 1994, when he came into the pits at Hockenheim, he was in the middle of a massive fireball, caused by leaking gasoline from the fuel pipe, as his Benetton was being refuelled during the race.
Jos Verstappen is also known by Formula 1 fans for his particular and controversial ways of preparing his son for the pressure cooker of Formula One. Many of us have probably heard the story of the gas station, and if you haven't, here it goes.
As soon as Max's father saw his great potential for driving karts, he decided to take charge of his career. The father and son travelled all over Europe to compete, dedicating plenty of time, energy and dedication, Jos instructing him and making him implement strategies on the track.
It was in the Karting World Championship in 2012 when Max failed to win a karting championship. “We sat in the van on the way home. I wanted to talk to my father about what happened, my opinion about the incident, but my dad didn't want to talk to me. I kept trying and at one point he stopped at a gas station and said, 'Go outside, I don't want to talk to you anymore," Verstappen recollected
It was another of Jos’ tests to push his son to the limit, before he came back for him. Despite not being the healthiest way to expect support from a relative, Max remembers those moments as teachings that turned him into a driver with great control over himself and the car.
Finally we will go a little deeper into the career of the three-time Dutch champion. It is worth highlighting his short career to reach the top, jumping from Formula 3 to Formula 1 in less than one season.
Today, three world titles, countless broken records, driver of the year, with a total of 53 races won in total, without overlooking his skills of hindsight, charisma, and intelligence, competitive spirit, all of this and more, make up the current dominator of Formula 1.
We could conclude that his parents' upbringing revolved around betting on his future in F1, a diamond in the rough that without good, experienced guidance would probably not have been able to succeed.
Compared to Jos Verstappen, Sophie Kumpen sacrificed her career, if it weren't for that, we would most likely have seen her as one of the few women who has managed to reach the top category, even beating Jos Verstappen on the track, but they gave us a driver at the level of legends of the sport, a driver who has reasons to win, and does not forget those who took him to where he is.