A new ‘role model’? Max Verstappen wants to be Michael Schumacher

Written by Staff Writer by Ryan Spilman, CNN From James to Von Trapp, decades of great adulation have made celebrities of almost every member of the family of music icons

F1 star Max Verstappen says he isn’t the next Michael Schumacher

Max Verstappen is confident he is not the new Michael Schumacher

Max Verstappen may just be a “1” in Formula One but the 20-year-old hopes he has matured into a better version of himself after a season in which he learned to control his temper.

After a difficult start to his career at Red Bull in 2015 — the sport’s youngest ever driver when he started — he endured some highlights (his spectacular overtaking of Lewis Hamilton at the Monaco Grand Prix in April is likely to be among them) before finishing last season with a first ever victory at the Australian Grand Prix in March.

Speaking on the eve of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, he has no qualms about the man who holds the record for most F1 victories, despite spending most of the final third of last season sidelined with a health scare, an injury and a driving ban.

“Michael will always be one of the greatest people. He’s the only man who can do it,” Verstappen told a briefing on Friday in Sao Paulo, when asked how he hoped to emulate his fellow-nationals’ remarkable achievements.

“I just try to do my best out on the track and hopefully I can be a good role model to the fans.”

Says he’s improved

Verstappen, a Dutchman who signed for Red Bull in 2014, has yet to start a Formula One race from pole position, but said on Friday he hoped to achieve that before the end of the season.

Asked whether he felt he had matured into the role of role model he had been tasked with, he said: “Definitely — it’s taken a long time, especially after last year.

“I have a lot of respect for people, especially as we have all the fans to match up with them.

“It was my first year and I knew nothing about F1, so to make sure they are happy I am still doing the things I used to do, but better and better.”

Verstappen earned some plaudits after his Melbourne win, but looked far from the invincible racetrack predator who has become a sensation since making his F1 debut in 2015.

The viral video of the crash that cost him the subsequent Bahrain Grand Prix landed him a five-place grid penalty for the Spanish Grand Prix — which, it is widely believed, pushed his car into a spin and the victory that turned his season around in Melbourne.

Verstappen admitted it had been “a big learning curve” and had made him aware of the responsibilities that go with being the public face of the sport.

“It was a bit different before because last year I was just starting out and I knew very little about the sport,” he said.

“Now I know about the characters, the legends of racing and all the different personalities and it’s very, very important.”

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