Max Verstappen's former team boss Frits van Amersfoort joined in with the rest of the Netherlands' ecstasy when the Dutchman crossed the line in Abu Dhabi to become the Formula 1 World Champion of 2021.
It had been a season of toil and turmoil, with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton giving it everything to try to stop the Red Bull driver from claiming his maiden world title.
But for Van Amersfoort, owner of the eponymous racing team, Verstappen's title win was even more special in his eyes – he had been directly involved in helping Verstappen make the switch from karting to single-seaters.
In 2014, Verstappen made the step up to race with Van Amersfoort in Formula 3, immediately finding his feet to take 10 race wins and a total of 16 podiums.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, Van Amersfoort explained it was evident to him that he was dealing with a child prodigy.
"During that season I said that Max would one day become World Champion," he stated. "There was no doubt about that."
Verstappen's mentality hasn't changed: "He goes to the limit"
Van Amersfoort believes Verstappen's mentality and driving style has not changed much in the eight years since their F3 campaign together – a season that was strong enough to earn the approval of Red Bull's Helmut Marko and convince him to give the young driver a shot in F1 with Toro Rosso.
Van Amersfoort thinks the only real change in Verstappen's approach since those days is that he now drives with a little more maturity.
"Max drove in F3 exactly the way he drives now," he emphasised.
"He hasn't really changed in the period between then and now. He may have started driving with his head a little more, but he will always push. Max goes to the limit and he stops only when he's at the finish."
It is Verstappen's mental strength that makes him particularly potent, according to the team owner.
"The actions Max made with us in 2014 are similar to the actions he shows in F1 now," he said.
"Only then, he drove in front of a much smaller audience and the outside world didn't see it. Now he does it in front of millions of people, but Max was able to enter Formula 1 after two races in Formula 3.
"The man is just so beyond talented. In his feeling [for the car], but also mentally. That paid off last season."
Verstappen shoots through motorsport "like a rocket"
Verstappen has drawn criticism over the years for his aggressive driving style, criticism which reared its head again during the tumultuous 2021 season.
But Van Amersfoort dismissed the accusations, saying that Verstappen is a driver whose style should be enjoyed.
"Lewis has been World Champion seven times," he went on to comment.
"I have never worked with Lewis but I can imagine that, at the beginning of his career, he was also a bit wilder than now.
"Lewis is Lewis, and has become World Champion seven times and not eight times, because [Verstappen] shoots through motorsport like a rocket. I think we should all just enjoy it immensely."
Verstappen's popularity has also massively increased F1's profile in the Netherlands, with Van Amersfoort explaining that race days are almost like national festivals.
"Verstappen has made Formula 1 a kind of national sport. That is really incredible," he added.
"People who never watched F1, they now all watch F1 and that is purely because of Max."
As for whether Verstappen's first title win in 2021 marks a changing of the guard after years of Hamilton domination, Van Amersfoort reckons it could be the case: "You know that someone who is 37 is psychologically, mentally and also biologically different than a young guy of 24 who wanted to win his first world title."
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