Max Verstappen has a legion of supporters – his orange army – dedicated to his cause in F1, but the Red Bull driver also has his haters, a contingent of fans whose criticism of the Dutchman is unwarranted according to Martin Brundle.
At 26, Verstappen has already won three world championships and 54 races, and after this year’s crushing campaign, all signs point to him expanding his track record in the future.
However, for all his undeniable prowess and success, Verstappen finds himself facing criticism from some fans, a common plight for dominant sports figures.
Furthermore, Max’s candid and straightforward comments have also contributed to the polarizing sentiments surrounding him.
While many appreciate his unfiltered and authentic approach, others view it as brash or controversial.
Verstappen's willingness to speak his mind, coupled with his success, has created a dichotomy of admiration and dissent among fans, highlighting the complex nature of fandom in the world of motorsports.
Brundle however is a big fan of Formula 1’s current world champion.
"I like that Max speaks his mind and I've always found him very refreshing to interview, and also simply to chat to in the paddock," the former F1 driver wrote in his post-race Sky Sports column.
"He's very direct and honest, what you see is what you get, and he clearly doesn't care all that much what others think.
“I can't help but feel that a little more diplomacy and balance would be more fitting to the legacy he will leave, as after all, we are all only guardians of this great sport as we pass through."
Early in his career, Verstappen was known for his aggressive driving style and occasional controversial incidents.
However, as he gained experience and exposure at the highest level of motorsports, he exhibited a noticeable evolution in his approach.
His ability to learn from past experiences, work closely with his team, and maintain a disciplined focus on improving his skills all played crucial roles in his transformation.
"Of course, he was feisty and a little wild as a teenager when first racing in F1, but he sorted that out and is mostly a model of calm out on track now, and as fair as anybody else when it comes to hard racing," added Brundle.
"I don't understand why he's still seen as the villain, but the fans will make up their own minds."
As for the hegemonic dominance displayed by Red Bull and Verstappen this year, which has led some fans to call into question F1’s level of competition, Brundle also disagrees with such an assessment.
"I meet fans and read the feisty comments people like to amplify on X, saying what a boring season it was, presumably because one combination dominated," he said.
"From my perspective I don't believe I've ever witnessed such a level of close racing, overtakes, and jeopardy through the entire field, which further closed as the season progressed."