Verstappen – Norris ‘24: who remembers Verstappen – Nielsen ‘13?

Columns: From Kart to F1
The 2013 episode in Bahrain, when Max Verstappen shut Nielsen out, causing him to lose the KF World Championship, reminds us of the tenacious nature of the Dutch driver. When pushed to the limit, he adapts to the motorsport cannibal protocol: win at any cost. (fm)

There was a time, not too long ago, when the Karting World Championship was decided in two rounds. It's late November 2013, and sixteen-year-old Max arrives in Bahrain for the second and decisive round of the single-speed World Championship (now known as OK), buoyed by his recent KZ World Championship win and determined to make history with a World Championship double. His move to single seater racing is roughly already decided, but remember that Max is just a strong karting driver at the moment, not the three-time F1 World Champion everyone knows today, and everything is still to be written.

Within that boy, however, is the thirst for victory that still drives every race he takes part in, whether he wins by a large margin due to superior equipment or struggles, as in Austria, when things don't go his way. That evening, after leading the heats and pre-final, Max faces some difficulties with the tires, visible from the start, even though he manages to lead into the first corner. Within a few laps, Joyner and the other pursuers are on his tail, especially the increasingly pressing Danish driver Niklas Nielsen (yes, the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans winner with Ferrari), the main contender for the title. If the race goes well, Nielsen would become World Champion as he only needs to win and have Verstappen finish third. When Joyner passes him, it's clear that Verstappen probably won't go home as World Champion, but he is already Max Verstappen, the one who dreams of winning 8 F1 World Championships and then retiring, eventually.

There's a short straight before the right-hand corner leading onto the finish straight. Nielsen, after closely targeting Max for a few corners, tries to overtake, but Max suddenly changes his line, and contact is inevitable: the Dane goes off with irreparable damage to his kart while Max falls to the back of the pack, eventually being disqualified for the unorthodox and blatantly unfair maneuver that dashed his rival's dreams of glory. That World Championship goes to Joyner, who with only 29 points, takes home the biggest prize at the end of a race many will remember for showing what Max Verstappen was made of: the same people who, after watching the end of the 2024 Austrian GP and Norris's anger, weren't surprised that Verstappen...'Verstappened'.

Irony of fate? That evening in Bahrain, on the top step of the KFJ podium, guess who stood? A little (literally) Englishman born in '99, who never had the chance to race against, in karting, that Dutchman everyone was talking about that evening...

 

Created by: fmarangon2 - 01/07/24

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