ABU DHABI: The Formula One title fight between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg tops the bill at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but the ‘Max Verstappen show’ could be just as entertaining.
After a sensational wet race in Brazil that saw the 19-year-old Red Bull driver surge from 16th to third place in the closing laps, the Dutchman arrives at Yas Marina with a rare buzz around him.
The sport’s youngest race winner can provide more thrills — and spell trouble for the title contenders.
He and Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo will not be content just to watch from the sidelines as Hamilton and championship favourite Rosberg battle it out.
While Ricciardo is sure of third place overall, Verstappen can take fourth from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel — the two are just five points apart — and that will be extra motivation.
Verstappen and Vettel clashed in Mexico last month, one of several incidents that have got other drivers hot under the helmet.
Verstappen was slammed earlier in the year for ‘moving under braking’, an aggressively defensive change of line that forced a clarification of the rules.
Ironically, it was four times world champion Vettel who was first to fall foul of stewards for the offence with a penalty in Mexico that demoted him from third to fifth.
If Verstappen has shaken up the sport with his unorthodox lines and bold overtaking manoeuvres, the occasional moments of petulance and accusations of arrogance, he takes it all in his stride.
“I think not only in Formula One but a lot of sports, when younger people come in and do well there is always a bit of talk going on,” he said.