F1 CEO takes aim at Max Verstappen after Red Bull star threatened to quit

F1 season preview as Max Verstappen looks to defend world title

F1 chief Stefano Domenicali has told drivers to avoid being ‘selfish’ in the face of major changes this season. Max Verstappen recently spoke out against the new format of sprint weekends in 2023, even suggesting that he would quit the sport if competing became too taxing.

Verstappen has already reached the pinnacle of F1, and many are tipping him to eventually challenge Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, who hold seven world titles apiece. He is on course to pick up a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship this season, sitting on a 14-point cushion over team-mate Sergio Perez after five Grands Prix.

But he made it clear that the new-look sprint weekends, which come with increased full-throttle action on Friday and Saturday, are not welcome in his camp. The 25-year-old even claimed that he would ‘not be around for too long’ if more changes were made.

Domenicali, meanwhile, has called on the sport’s major stars to move out of their comfort zones and embrace the changes.

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“I don’t want a society in which people cannot say what they want,” he told The Daily Mail. “But drivers sometimes need to remember that they are part of a broader picture. We don’t need to be selfish.

“They are part of this sport and this business, and it grows because we are thinking bigger. Sometimes being out of our comfort zone is not easy, but we cannot be lazy or complacent – just as we can review some of the specifics of the sprint weekend format at the end of the season once we have tried it out on the intended six occasions.

“We won’t have sprints every weekend, either. But we have a new audience and need to provide value for money every session, not let everyone drive around in circles for the sole benefit of engineers and drivers.”

Addressing Verstappen’s discontent more explicitly, Domenicali added: “I discussed the issues with Max [before the last race in Miami]. He said he loved the sport and what he was doing. He is world champion and is fighting for a third title. He was born in a car. I would say he is likely to stay longer than me. It’s not a problem.”

Verstappen is already off to a troubled start in terms of sprint weekends this season, having been unable to close the gap on title-challenger Perez in Azerbaijan last month.

The Dutchman will have to put on a brave face for the next one, as it will take place at the team’s very own Red Bull Ring in Austria at the end of June. Despite Verstappen’s threats to quit, he is under contract at Red Bull until 2028, by which time he will have spent well over a decade in F1.

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