Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen (left) celebrates his second world championship with Red Bull engineers and pit crew at Suzuka AFP / Toshifumi KITAMURA

Earlier this season, reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen appeared to threaten to quit the sport amid numerous changes that are being introduced. Many believed he was referring to the changes over Sprint Race weekends, but he has now come out to clarify that he is speaking generally about the quality of life he is left with as the demands of being a top F1 driver take their toll.

This weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix will host the first Sprint Race weekend of the season, and the FIA and F1 have jointly announced a host of changes in regulations, format and schedule. To summarise the changes, a Sprint Shootout qualifying session has been added on Saturday, and the final grid places for the Main Race on Sunday will not be dependent on the results of the Sprint but will instead rely on the Friday Qualifying session.

While this makes for a more exciting weekend for spectators, it makes for a longer and much more gruelling weekend for the drivers and everyone in the garage and in F1 in general. Verstappen hinted at the Australian GP that if he does not like the changes that are being made in the sport, he might quit sooner than expected.

His current contract with Red Bull racing runs out in 2028, and spoke with the two-time defending world champion about his possible early retirement. In the course of the conversation, Verstappen clarified that he was speaking more about F1 in general rather than just the Sprint Race weekends.

"I think I always said that even if there won't be any more sprint races, if we keep expanding the calendar and the whole weekend is that long, at one point you question yourself: is it worth it?"

It may be remembered that the 2023 F1 season boasts a record 23 races, which runs for about ten months. Along with winter testing, F1 drivers and other employees are travelling and working almost year-round save for a few breaks in between race weekends.

Because of the increasingly lengthy race calendar, Verstappen asked: "I do like racing. I do like winning. I know that, of course, there is the salary and everything, and you have a good life. But is it actually a good life?"

He pointed out that many will be unable to understand what he means especially since F1 drivers are some of the highest-paid athletes in the world. They are often surrounded by glitz and glamour and can well afford to buy whatever they want. Currently at the peak of his career and on his way to what looks like a possible hat-trick of world championship titles, Verstappen does not appear to be in any position to question the quality of his life.

"This sounds very weird for people from the outside, because they're like, 'oh, you're in Formula 1, you're winning!' And probably I would have said the same when I was in their position," he said, adding that people from the outside do not really know what goes on in his life on a personal level.

He acknowledges that his life is great and amazing, but there are other things that he wants to devote his time to both in and out of motorsports. He also clarified that he is not likely to terminate his contract early, but is instead planning on reevaluating his plans once contact extension talks come around in 2028.

Speaking about the changes taking place in F1, he admitted that from a marketing point of view, he sees why these changes are being made. However, from a racing point of view, he does not necessarily agree.

As an example, he said that Sprint Races make for a more action packed weekend overall, especially for the fans. However he also thinks that the Sprint Races are able to give a preview of how the cars will perform on Sunday, taking some of the shine away from the main race.

"You get quite a clear picture of what is happening, and who is the quickest, so then you also have quite a clear view on what's going to happen the next day. That probably takes a bit the shine away from the main event," he said.

Speaking about his future, Verstappen expressed interest in the Le Mans 24-hour race. He also confirmed that this is something that he can do with his father, Jos Verstappen, who has remained active in other racing categories after retiring from F1.

Verstappen also said that he is interested in putting up his own racing team, but drew the line at the highly popular IndyCar series in the United States. He said he likes the series, but would rather be a spectator than sit inside the cockpit.