Rico Verhoeven has been friends with Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen for years. The kickboxer maintains a lot of contact with the rider and he can often be found in the gym with Verstappen. The kickboxing world champion has a lot of admiration for the leader in the Formula 1 championship. ‘He will really become world champion.’
This season, the Dutchman is engaged in an exciting title battle with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. The Red Bull driver is currently on top as he has the most wins in the season. On Sunday, Verstappen can win his first world title during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. ‘Max has all the qualities of a champion’, says Verhoeven in an interview with De Telegraaf. Either way, he’s going to take the championship. If it’s not this weekend, he’ll get it sometime in the next few years.”
Still, the 24-year-old driver has to compete against a formidable opponent. Hamilton has an impressive record of achievements and has managed to find form in the last few races. Verhoeven sees that the two really need each other. ‘You always need a partner to put on a beautiful dance. Max needs Lewis and vice versa. You see that when those two gasp at each other’s necks, the best comes out in them.’
This Sunday, the Red Bull driver can take the world title if he does not reach the finish line together with Hamilton. According to Verhoeven, both drivers will do everything in their power to claim the title. “It’ll be all or nothing for both. They’re both going to be on the edge this weekend. Even if they completely collapse at a certain point, they can rise again. As a top athlete you know what you are doing it for and you want to show that you are the very best.’
The mental aspect of top sport
According to the 32-year-old kickboxing talent is not enough to reach the top. The Dutchman sees that his compatriot is also very strong in the mental aspect. ‘Talent is bad but part of the total package,’ continues Verhoeven. “Max is a great racer, of course, but at the same time he handles the pressure fantastically. That’s important too. He handles the pressure like a true champion.’
Verhoeven saw early in Verstappen’s career that the driver was in good shape mentally. In his younger years, the Red Bull driver was sometimes labeled as a reckless driver, but the kickboxer disagrees. Max wasn’t reckless at all. He rides without fear and with that he brought a breath of fresh air into the sport. People forget that he is still very young because he has so much experience. That’s his class. He is extremely talented, but people forget that he has worked so many hours of hard work to get here,” said Verhoeven.