At the age of just 24, Max Verstappen will enter his 8th F1 season coming on the back of his maiden title-winning campaign.
Verstappen’s rise to the top of F1 has been a long time coming. Ever since his debut for Toro Rosso in 2015, he’s been tipped as a future World Champion and in 2021, he lived up to the promise by dethroning the legendary Lewis Hamilton.
One of the Verstappen’s qualities that help him stand out is his maturity and the way he handles high-pressure situations. We saw that on display at the Dutch GP last year, when he withstood the pressure of an electric Zandvoort home crowd to comfortably win the race.
Dr. Marcia Goddard, a neuroscientist, recently shared her thoughts on Verstappen’s meteoric rise to the summit.
“At an age when most parents let their children go on their first vacation with friends, Max was on the other side of the world, lining up on the grid for his first Grand Prix.” said Goddard.
“Max’s development over the years contains some great nuggets of insight regarding adolescent brain development. Starting out young has given him the experience he needed to win this championship, and it has provided us with the opportunity to watch his brain mature on live television.”
Max Verstappen’s staunch mental progress at young age
She went on to highlight Verstappen’s mental development in his early F1 days. The Dutchman was known for being too aggressive with his style, which often led to him crashing with other drivers. However, he used whatever mistakes he made as a learning curve for improving himself in the very next outing.
“At the onset of puberty, around the age of 15, the brain starts rewiring itself. This process lasts until we are about 25 years old. Research shows that the last part of the brain to mature is the prefrontal cortex,” she explained further in her LinkedIn essay.
“The prefrontal cortex is involved in a number of so-called higher-order cognitive functions. These are functions like multitasking, problem-solving, complex information processing, and self-regulation.”
“All of these skills are absolutely crucial when driving a Formula 1 car at the limit. Throughout puberty, two things happen that allow for these skills to develop: synaptic pruning, and myelination. Synaptic pruning means the brain eliminates synapses that it doesn’t need.”
“Synapses are structures that allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Eliminating the synapses that are unnecessary helps the brain to process information more efficiently.”
Max Verstappen- strong character on display at Silverstone in 2020
Verstappen put in a strong display at the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone two years ago. In the one-off GP, he started the race on 4th but went on to win it ahead of Hamilton.
During the race, his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase asked him to take his foot off the pedal to save his tyres. The 24-year old refused to listen to Lambiase and responded in a way that Dr. Goddard feels captured the mature side of Verstappen.
“Mate, this is the only chance we’ve got for catching the Mercedes. I’m not going to sit behind like a grandma.” the Red Bull driver said to his engineer. I’m being sensible, don’t worry.”
This is just unbelievable. I started racing with my dad many years ago. We dreamed of becoming a World Champion and now we are.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) December 12, 2021
His decision making paid off in the end as he was able to finish ahead of the Mercedes driver to take home the chequered flag.
At the age of just 24, Max Verstappen has many more years of F1 racing ahead of him.
In scientific terms, Dr Goddard concluded by saying, “Now with a fully pruned and myelinated prefrontal cortex, balanced dopamine and serotonin systems. And a truckload of experience under his belt, it will be a joy to watch him fight for championships for years to come.”