How did you get into motorsport?
I got into motorsport through my family. My father used to own car dealerships and also raced a little bit himself. Cars have always been part of my family’s DNA, with my great grandfather originally starting the dealerships and my father eventually ended up running them. My father sold everything though, to be able to put all his time and effort into me and my racing career, so as much as it was my dream and goal to make it in motorsport, it was also his.
You already know Yuki quite well, when did you first meet?
We met for the first time in 2020, if I’m not mistaken. Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri had a marketing event at the Red Bull Ring and I was racing there that weekend in ELMS so we travelled together to Monaco – as it was just before the Grand Prix there. That was the first time Yuki and I met – we travelled on the flight and then spent some time in Monaco together – and as everyone knows he’s extremely entertaining, so we’ve kept in touch ever since.
You lived in Italy for a lot of your youth, why was that?
A big part of the karting scene is in Italy, because a lot of the manufacturers are based there, so when I started karting at an International level I naturally started to spend a lot of time there. So, as a family we decided it was more convenient to have a base in Italy, to travel to and from races, and this helped me to develop my Italian language. I actually spent five days learning an business language course – you were only allowed to speak Italian – so I picked up a lot of the language there before I moved to Italy with my family. I’m not fluent, but being at Scuderia AlphaTauri is already helping me to improve.
What is the highlight of your racing career?
It’s been a long journey already, there have been a lot of highs and low. If I were to name one highlight, I’d say it was winning F2, it’s the championship you live towards for most of your career. Your dream growing up is to make it to F1 and F2 is the last step before that, so it was an important championship for me to win.
What track are you most excited for on the F1 calendar in 2023?
Zandvoort, of course. As a driver, the goal is to drive your home circuit anyway but the Dutch Grand Prix is like a festival or party, so I think driving that track with all the fans will give me goosebumps. The atmosphere is insane, and I can’t wait to experience that as a Dutch F1 driver.
You’re already a World Champion, do you feel any pressure coming into F1 with this title?
I don’t like to reflect too much on my past, of course it’s part of my journey to F1, but I always like to look forward. I’m grateful for the things I’ve managed to achieve so far but at the same time, I’ve got new challenges ahead and I’m extremely happy to be racing in Formula 1.
You’ve known Max since you were young, what is that relationship like?
Max and I have known each other since a very young age, as we grew up karting at a similar time, although we’ve never actually raced against each other. The first time we actually raced together was in Monza last year, and we happened to be next to each other on the grid, so that was amazing. We have a great relationship, the way we grew up in racing, with our fathers being very involved and karting through Europe has been very similar and we have a great respect for each other. We’re obviously from the same country, speak the same language and we just get along. Despite the fact that I’m older, it almost feels like Max is my big brother within the Formula 1 paddock, he’s obviously achieved a lot and has so much experience already.
What hobbies do you have outside of racing?
I will admit that my life has been very much about racing. However, in lockdown I started learning to play the piano – I have no background in music whatsoever, but I really enjoyed the instrument and used the downtime to try something different. Now that the restrictions have ended, I enjoy more outdoor activities, like sports, and also spending a lot of time with my family, when it’s possible.
Do you have a sporting idol?
I have a huge admiration for Dutch speed skaters, it’s the most successful discipline for the Netherlands at the Winter Olympics and all of the athletes train around 10km from my home. I’m from the north of the Netherlands, speed skating is a huge part of our culture, and even more so in the area I’m from, so it’s part of our life from an early age, I even used to do it as a child. I respect their approach to the sport, their hours and work ethic is very impressive.
What football team do you support?
I support my local team SC Heerenveen, and that’s actually where the design for my helmet comes from. The blue, white and hearts are part of the province logo and the team’s shirts have the same design, so I’ve also incorporated that into my helmet for a long time.
How would you define your style?
I like that everyone has their own style and that tells you a lot about their character, for me I think I dress in quite a smart-casual way.
Who was the first person you told when you found out you were driving for us in 2023?
There wasn’t one defined moment, as the process was quite complex, but actually once the contract was signed Pierre was the first person I spoke to! He FaceTimed me whilst I was in the gym to congratulate me, which was really nice. Of course, my family were there through the whole process and when things got more serious it was my father I spoke to about it all.