Tough year with a glorious finish
After a successful 2016, in which Max made the switch from Scuderia Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing – winning his first Grand Prix and claiming seven podium finishes in the process – the expectations for the 2017 season are high.
However, come the first race in Australia, it is apparent Red Bull Racing lack the speed to fight at the front with Mercedes and Ferrari. Max’s fifth place in Melbourne is thus the maximum result in the opening round of the championship.
Despite the RB13’s lack of outright pace, Max is able to excel in wet conditions in China. Starting from sixteenth, the Dutchman carves his way through the field to earn his first podium of the year with third place.
In Bahrain, Max suffers his first DNF of the season after the brakes fail. The youngster bounces back with fifth in Russia but at the start of European season in Barcelona, Max is out after the first lap; an attempt to pass Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) on the outside of the first corner ends in a crash and zero points. In the streets of Monaco, Max is heading for his second podium of the year, until a badly timed pit stop throws him back to fifth.
In the following three races, things go from bad to worse; three DNFs in a row. In Canada, electrical issues end the Dutchman’s race prematurely after a terrific start from fifth to second. In Baku, Max is targeting a potential victory. Instead, the RB13 breaks down again, with the other Red Bull (Daniel Ricciardo) taking the victory spoils. Austria completes the run of bad luck. In front of thousands of Verstappen fans that made the trip to the Red Bull Ring, clutch problems result in terrible start for Max. To make matters worse, Daniil Kvyat ploughs into the RB13 at the first corner, ending Max’s Austrian adventure after just one lap.
At Silverstone, Max is back in the points with a fourth place, followed by P5 in Hungary. Unfortunately, he is not able to build on the points gathering momentum in the final two European events of the year. At his home Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, engine problems result in another early retirement. In Italy, Max qualifies second in the rain, but penalties throw him back to thirteenth on the grid. A collision with Felipe Massa (Williams) means Max struggles his way to tenth and a single championship point.
Singapore provides the backdrop for one of the talking points of the season. After starting alongside pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Max is squeezed by the two Ferraris – after an excellent start by Kimi Raikkonen - into turn one. The result is a huge crash, taking out Max, Vettel, Raikkonen and an innocent Fernando Alonso in his McLaren.
From Malaysia onwards, the tide turns. Red Bull Racing have unlocked the pace of their RB13 and at the Sepang circuit, Max takes his first win of the year and his second victory of his Formula 1 career. The Dutchman hunts down Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), overtakes the world champion on lap four and dominates all the way to the finish. In Japan, Hamilton and Max trade places, with the Mercedes driver winning at Suzuka.
After the start crash at Singapore, Max is caught up in another major talking point of the 2017 season: at Austin he fights his way from sixteenth to third after a spectacular overtake on Kimi Raikkonen in the final few corners. Unfortunately, the stewards deem Max’s move as illegal as he exceeded track limits. The resulting time penalty throws the Red Bull driver back to fourth.
Max bounces back the best way possible; with an emphatic win in Mexico. After muscling his way past championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in the first couple of corners, the Red Bull Racing ace dominates the rest of Grand Prix to clinch his third career win.
In the final two races, the RB13 is no match for Ferrari and Mercedes and Max finishes his year with two fifth places.
His first full season at Red Bull Racing earned Max four podiums (incl. two wins) and 168 championship points. Despite reliability problems, the Dutchman’s 2017 campaign ended on a positive with strong performances in the final quarter of the year and a contract extension with Red Bull Racing until 2020.