New York City CNN  — 

When it comes to Formula One, a sport where danger literally exists around the corner – not for nothing did Netflix call their docuseries “Drive to Survive” – two-time world champion Max Verstappen doesn’t seem to exhibit fear.

The 25-year-old Red Bull driver takes no prisoners on or off the track, frequently pushing his car to the limit, and has clashed with other drivers, even within his own team.

But the Dutchman does have a Kryptonite of sorts, admitting to CNN Sport’s Carolyn Manno at Red Bull’s season launch in New York City last week that when it comes to any jitters, “I don’t mind the small spiders, but like the big hairy ones … [and] snakes, I really don’t like! Luckily, where I live in Monaco, it’s not too bad.”

Short of his peers playing a prank on Verstappen, such as slipping a snake into the cockpit, it’s hard to see the unflappable Dutchman not being in pole position to secure a third title in a row this season.

‘We want to keep on winning’

The 2021 season marked his emergence as a bona fide superstar in the sport.

True, there was the controversy surrounding his securing the 2021 championship courtesy of that final lap restart in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, after his great rival Lewis Hamilton had looked assured of clinching a record-breaking eighth world title, but the 2022 campaign was pretty much a procession.

Verstappen competes during the qualifying session ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit on September 3, 2022.

Verstappen defended his crown in style, winning a record 15 races along the way, wrapping up the title in October, becoming only the fourth driver to secure the world championship with four or more races remaining.

Verstappen isn’t one to pontificate about his achievements – “we want to keep on winning … so anything less than that, of course, is a disappointment,” he points out in New York.

He also deflects any talk about any rivalry with either Hamilton – “it’s not something that necessarily fuels me” – or his own teammate Sergio Pérez, saying that “we are professional enough to move past those things,” a reference to the Dutchman ignoring team orders to allow the 33-year-old Mexican through on the final lap in Brazil last year.

Verstappen is more willing to open up about the relationships with two key influences in his life: his father Jos, and the Red Bull founder and owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who died last year on the eve of the Austin Grand Prix, at the age of 78.

The death of Mateschitz clearly impacted Verstappen, who says that “for us, Austin was a very tough weekend, with Dietrich passing away, basically the man who created everything for us … the only thing we could do that weekend was, of course, to try and win that race, which luckily we did.

“And then we won the Constructors’ [Championship], so there are a lot of emotions going through your mind and in general for the team throughout that whole weekend.”

Verstappen and his father celebrate winning the F1 World Constructors' Championship on October 23, 2022, in Austin.

Winning mentality

His father Jos, a former F1 driver himself, coached his son to such lengths, that he has said “Max was my life project” and “I did more for Max’s career than my own career” – to say nothing of being an intrinsic reason why his son became the sport’s youngest ever competitor at just 17 years of age for Toro Rosso in 2015.

F1’s youngest points scorer then became its youngest race winner the following year on his Red Bull debut.

Verstappen senior’s approach has not been lost on the Red Bull star, who concedes that his desire to win comes from his dad.

“I think it’s just in general, the mentality we have in the family,” he notes. “How I grew up as a little kid and spending so much time with my dad going to all the racetracks. So I guess a lot of these kind of things always have to do with how you are brought up.”

Father and son will have three opportunities to discuss and dissect the upcoming season on American soil, as F1 continues to make inroads into a crowded marketplace.

This is in no small part propelled by the popularity of “Drive to Survive,” which Verstappen famously eschewed last season due to concerns over how he was being portrayed – he’s since reversed his position, and will be part of season five, which debuts later this month.

Verstappen recognizes that the sport is having its moment stateside.

“We are growing, the US is a very big country,” he explains. “And I think it’s a very important market to the whole of F1 and I’m very excited, of course, to be racing in three different tracks.”

Verstappen seen during a photo shoot of the kit launch of Red Bull Racing in London earlier this year.

The debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix this November will bring even more glitz and glamor to the circuit, joining Miami and Austin among the 23 races on the 2023 calendar.

When asked what interests him the most about Vegas, Verstappen says that “it’s more about just the craziness it brings – like everyone wants to go there. Everyone is expecting a lot. And from my side, I’m just hoping that it’s gonna be an exciting weekend.”

And yet, despite the back-to-back titles, becoming the Netherlands’ first world champion in the process and claiming 35 grand prix victories over his eight years in the sport – enough for sixth spot on the all-time list, with the legendary Ayrton Senna’s 41 wins mark set to be overtaken this year – Verstappen is by no means certain to stick around F1.

He’s even on the record that he doesn’t see himself driving until the age of 40.

Spectators react as Verstappen drives ahead of the Dutch Formula One Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit on September 3, 2022.

When pushed on his reasoning, Verstappen explains that “the problem is that we are traveling so much and it’s getting more and more … basically, the question is, ‘Is it worth it to spend so much time away from family and friends by chasing more success?’

“And I mean, I already achieved everything I wanted in Formula One. But I know I have a contract until 2028. I’ll be 31. It’s still pretty young, but like I said, I also want to do different things in life.”

Never mind what scares Verstappen, perhaps the only thing his fellow drivers have to fear is the fear that the world champion changes his mind about calling it a day sooner rather than later.