F1 Insider Believes Kelly Piquet Has Made Max Verstappen More Mature Than Lewis Hamilton

Published 12/23/2021, 8:01 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen arrives at the circuit before the race with his girlfriend Kelly Piquet REUTERS/Rula Rouhana


Max Verstappen helped Red Bull re-ignite their dominance in F1 after a classic championship win. The Dutchman ended up winning 10 races and bagging 18 podiums in the season. The fierce title championship with Lewis Hamilton was surely an uphill battle, but he came out victorious in the end.

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More than anything else, the 24-year-old was lauded for his temperament and maturity while handling such an ardent task. His potential as a driver was always there, but many believe his character and calculated aggression on the track made him a world champion. Russian journalist Alexey Popov saw a dramatic change in the Dutchman’s character this season and thinks it might be because of Kelly Piquet.

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Popov has been an avid voice of the sport for a long time. He recently shared his opinions on the growth of Max Verstappen in F1 over the years.

Max Verstappen changed as a character

The Red Bull star came into the sport at the tender age of 17. He carried an image of an aggressive character for a long time. There were incidents of his spats with fellow drivers as well, notably with Esteban Ocon in 2018. However, the 2021 season saw an overall change in his approach and reactions.

Russian journalist Popov believes it might be because of his girlfriend Kelly Piquet, daughter of F1 legend Nelson Piquet. In a recent interview with Championat.com, Popov said he was not a fan of his character earlier, but he underwent a drastic change over time.

“You know, I’ve never been a fan of Max as a character, as a person, but this year I felt like his character had changed for the better — dramatically,” said Popov.

“I don’t know, maybe Kelly is the reason for this or just that he suddenly matured and something clicked, but somehow something changed at once. Yes, it has nothing to do with his aerobatics, but with how he reacts to things,” he added.

Verstappen started dating Piquet at the end of 2020. Max took Instagram to confirm his relationship with her with a new year post in January 2021. The camera spots her sometimes in the paddock during the race weekends, most recently in Abu Dhabi where the Red Bull star clinched his maiden F1 title.

Verstappen sometimes looked more mature than Hamilton: Popov

Lewis Hamilton was considered a driver who like to keep pushing. However, the image has subsequently diluted into a more mature driver on the grid. Popov, however, thinks Max acted more graciously on some events and he felt like someone has replaced the Dutchman.

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“Max in many ways perceived them more maturely than the 36-year-old seven-time world champion. I’m talking about Max’s reaction — on the radio, after the finish, and in the press. I sometimes wondered: was he replaced by anything? Who is this person?” said Popov.

“And even when there were some injustices in his direction with the refereeing, the other would have been seething — and Max would have been seething before — and here he is, well, okay. With a sarcastic smile. That’s it! It’s amazing.”

Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning the race and the world championship on the podium REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

However, the reason for this might be unknown, but the effect is pretty much out in the open. Verstappen pulled off an absolute ripper this season and fans are eager to see another round of this rivalry next season.

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Rituraj Tripathi

254 articles

Rituraj Tripathi is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. A true lover of speed, he is big fan of Lewis Hamilton and finds a future world champion in Lando Norris. Rituraj eagerly looks forward to the paddock moving to the Circuit de Monaco, and he finds Portier corner as the most exciting part of the track.

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