He’s driving at the top of his game, has a legion of orange-clad fans who follow him to every Grand Prix and is the idol of millions across the world.
For many, Max Verstappen lives the life which few could dream of, and whilst still only 25 years old, he is currently on his way to smashing every record in Formula 1.
Naturally, the success of the son of former top go-karter Sophie Kumpen and Benetton driver Jos Verstappen, have made him one of the faces of F1, yet Max Verstappen is seemingly looking at life away from the sport.
Although he remains tied down to Red Bull until 2028, Verstappen has long spoken of his displeasure over the ever-changing look of an F1 weekend hinting at a potential retirement when his contract expires. So how has it come to this?
Why is Verstappen threatening to leave?
Since winning his maiden world championship in 2021, Verstappen has been open on the subject of retirement, stating an expanding calendar and the sport’s change to street circuits as his biggest gripes with F1’s current direction.
Changes to the weekend format, a potential driver salary cap and an increase in sprint races haven’t gone down well either, and Verstappen also simply doesn’t want to spend his life out of a suitcase.
“I’m happy with just the main race,” said Verstappen to Portugal’s SportTV. “I think that’s way better for the excitement.
“I naturally, of course, hope that there won’t be too many changes otherwise, I won’t be around for too long.”
What ideas does Domenicali have?
Since taking over from Chase Carrey in September 2020, Stefano Domenicali hasn’t been afraid to revolutionise the GP format or F1’s calendar.
Following a recent visit to the MotoGP Portugal Grand Prix, Domenicali has suggested reducing or even phasing out practice sessions and adding more sprint races to the calendar.
This comes after MotoGP’s shock decision to make sprints part of every race weekend to bring more television viewers following the retirement of Valentino Rossi in 2021.
Domenicali’s raison d’etre behind reducing practice time is to bring fans more action and has garnered support from drivers such as Pierre Gasly and George Russell, who believe three practice sessions aren’t necessary.
What is the new look format for Baku?
Six sprints are scheduled for the 2023 F1 season, with the first taking place in Baku on April 29th.
The street circuit around Azerbaijan’s capital city is known for its action-packed races and have hosted Formula 2’s sprint races since 2016.
However, Baku’s maiden F1 sprint will be a bit different from the others, as two qualifying sessions will occur, with the Friday afternoon session setting the grid for Sunday’s GP.
Saturday’s session will shape the grid for the sprint, which takes place in the afternoon with eight extra world championship points given to the winner.