Max Verstappen: Racing’s brightest young star or biggest tease?

What’s wrong with this picture?

If you’re Max Verstappen, that picture is really not that bad, is it? With a casual expression on his face, as if he’s glancing casually at the DJ at the next gig or through the key hole on a guitar, he may not be that concerned that people are even speculating about what he might do if he win the world championship.

The picture is of Verstappen celebrating his “triple points” victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which happened Sunday. Not only was the Dutchman the first driver to secure 100 points in a season since 2008, he’s also doing it in one of the most conservative races of the year. In May, with the weather cooler and with less traffic on the roads, drivers typically opt to save energy and go as fast as they can rather than risking things like getting caught in a pileup or ruining a tow truck that needs to get back to the pit lane. The result has been perhaps the most boring race of 2018, with Felipe Massa becoming the 29th driver to retire from a race this season — all for the sake of a certain flat red-and-blue track.

And with it, a new title contender.

Verstappen is still just 21 years old, but he’s already been beating the sport’s established giants like Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and even Kimi Raikkonen this season. So as another championship runs its course, what happens to the “What, Me Worry?” guy?

With nine races still to go, Verstappen is fifth overall, 66 points off the leader Hamilton and only eight points ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the final race in Italy. If a win in Italy goes to Rosberg or Hamilton, it will tie the championship up (three drivers have secured 100 points thus far, so even a win for Verstappen would leave him trailing them both). However, the overwhelming favorite to win the title, Hamilton, will have to win at least four more races and hope Verstappen doesn’t retire in the final two races.

Still, he has achieved a lot already. Racing behind the Big Three in Formula 1 has always been difficult. It’s a sport where the race simulations are accurate to within a car’s wheelbase, where the network coverage is the best and it’s a sport with rabid fans who watch all year-round to find out who’s going to be king.

“I look forward to the new regime of big men taking over the sport with such courage, maturity and rectitude,” Verstappen wrote on Twitter in 2016. The words could come back to bite him.

If he wins a race, an MVP award, then an apology, then he should take his karaoke skills into account, too. He’s shown in his short career that he can keep a good beat, but he’s really only tapped into one of his two remaining levels. If Verstappen is going to keep being the most important driver in the world, he has to show his musical side in the next few races.

He’s already proved that he has the talent to capture anyone’s attention on the grand stage. He doesn’t even need to flash the “triple points” sign at all, just a few good looks will do.

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