The Dutch courage that is usually awakened by several pints hitting the deep recesses of our reserved, cold British souls is naturally on the tip of Max Verstappen’s tongue. The Dutch wonderkid quickly settled effectively into his role as a Red Bull driver on track, but amongst other established drivers around the paddock, Verstappen sometimes collided.
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner offered an Orwellian reason for Verstappen’s verbal wars with the likes of Vettel and others.
“It’s very refreshing, it’s very healthy in the sport. Perhaps people get a little bit too much into corporate speak.
Both of our drivers are honest, open individuals. That’s why they’re so engaging for the fans and why their following has grown exponentially this year compared to many other drivers on the grid.”
– Christian Horner
The corporate speak that Horner mentions is a widespread endemic in Motorsport with driver’s having to deal with ambassadorial aspects on behalf of sponsors, who sometimes can only be appeased if the signal to the viewer at home is one that suggests the driver is essentially owned by the company backing them.
For example, in the British Touring Car Championship next season, how many times will Mat Jackson be thanking Shredded Wheat for his inevitable victories? I’m not saying Shredded Wheat won’t have anything to do with Jackson’s victories, just that the viewer isn’t fooled into believing that Jackson couldn’t win with a belly-full of Weetabix either just because he name-drops as soon as he’s out the car. For any driver who has been on the racing ladder for a while, it becomes procedural. This isn’t an issue so long as the driver also has scope for self-expression.
— Autosport (@autosport) December 14, 2016
Back to F1 and Christian Horner believes that Verstappen’s self-expression in 2016 and his reluctance to concede a telling off from established drivers isn’t enough in itself for criticism.
“He is doing a great job and driving the wheels off the car and he is racing hard. When sometimes a new guy comes along and upsets the establishment a bit then they do get a bit of criticism.
He is not rising to that, he is keeping his head down and enjoying his racing. Anything that destabilises an established pecking order is always not well received.”
– Christian Horner