Formula 1: Why the Max Verstappen retirement obsession?

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

In his third straight title-winning season, Max Verstappen took third place all-time Formula 1 wins list. Why is retirement even a talking point?

Three-time reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen closed out the 2023 season with seven consecutive wins and 17 wins in 18 races, bringing an end to the most dominant season from a single driver in the sport’s history.

In total, he won 19 races during the 2023 season, giving him 54 career wins and moving him from sixth to third place on the all-time wins list ahead of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna and four-time world champions Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel.

Yet there have been recent discussions surrounding Verstappen’s career and how long he will continue driving, with speculation that he could retire after his current contract expires.

The 26-year-old Dutchman has stated he has already achieved everything he set out to achieve and doesn’t need to stick around forever.

So even ignoring the nonsense headlines such as “Verstappen issues HUGE quit threat” that seem to pop up a few times throughout each season in an effort to stir the pot, there have been legitimate questions about when he might stop driving.

When Verstappen matched Senna with his 41st win, he became by far the youngest driver to do so, yet at the same time, he has competed in more races (at the time of his 41st win) than any of the other drivers in the top six on the all-time wins list.

In addition to Max Verstappen and Ayrton Senna, those Formula 1 drivers include Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, and Alain Prost.

Though Verstappen is only 26 years old, he has already been around this sport for one-third of his life. He began competing at the age of 17. Think about this; he spent nearly half of his teenage years competing at the highest level of motorsport.

So of course he probably doesn’t want to be doing this until he’s 45 years old.

Could he stick around if he wants to? Probably. He would have a relatively easy time becoming the sport’s most experienced driver of all-time. He is already almost halfway to that record.

When he matched Prost with his 51st win, he became by far the youngest driver to do so, but unlike when he matched Senna with his 41st win, he had competed in fewer races (at the time of his 51st win) than everyone else but Schumacher. The same can be said when he matched Vettel with his 53rd win.

And if he continues with Red Bull for the rest of his career, he would have a great chance to become the sport’s winningest driver and most decorated world champion ever. Heck, if Adrian Newey sticks around as well, 200 wins isn’t out of the question at his current pace.

But with all things considered, the fact that Formula 1 retirement is a talking point for Max Verstappen at this stage is silly.

No driver is currently under contract for longer than Verstappen is. He signed a massive five-year contract extension that runs through the 2028 season at the beginning of last year. He had already been tied down through 2023.

The only reason it’s even being discussed is because Verstappen gets asked about it constantly and remains noncommittal, citing things such as his displeasure with the sport becoming more “entertainment” than “sport”.

But a noncommittal response to this sort of question is not uncommon. Not only do drivers — or any athletes, for that matter — not generally discuss their plans five-plus years from now, but when they are on top of the sport, they have generally shied away of talking about any future plans.

Even going back to 2017, Hamilton stated that he didn’t know what his future held. Now in 2023, more than 50 wins and four titles later, he recently signed a multi-year contract extension, with his eye on extending his all-time wins record and breaking Schumacher’s world championships record.

People have accused Verstappen of “not enjoying” Formula 1 as much as he should, especially for a driver who has been as dominant as he has been. In reality, it boils down to knowing how to live in the moment and not taking anything for granted.

Is he going to be over the moon every time he wins? No; it’s expected, just as it has been during past periods of driver domination. It’s the same reason you never saw Tom Brady spraying champagne after beating the New York Jets.

At least Verstappen does that much.

Next. All-time Formula 1 wins list. dark

But at the same time, that doesn’t make him miserable. And it certainly doesn’t mean he’s thinking about quitting, nor does it give anybody any serious reason to obsess over what might or might not happen come when the 2028 season ends.