Johannes Franciscus "Jos" Verstappen (born 4 March 1972 in Montfort) is a Dutch racing driver. He is the most successful Dutch Formula One driver, and has also won races in A1 Grand Prix and Le Mans Series LMP2 races. Prior to his F1 début in 1994, he was also the German Formula Three champion and Masters of Formula Three winner in 1993.
Verstappen began karting at the age of 8, and was participating in national competitions not long after. In 1984 he became Dutch junior champion. He remained successful, and won two European titles and a large number of international races in 1989.
At the end of 1991 he made the transition to car racing. He drove in Formula Opel Lotus, a class in which identical cars compete against each other. He won the European championship in his first year, and got an offer to drive in Formula Three with Van Amersfoort Racing, who also developed other drivers such as Christijan Albers, Tom Coronel and Bas Leinders. During that European winter season, he raced in New Zealand Formula Atlantic. Subsequently, in German Formula Three, he won several international competitions, including the 1993 Marlboro Masters and the German Formula 3 championship.
In 1994 he was hired as a test and backup driver in the Benetton F1 team. After a crash in pre-season testing by regular driver J.J. Lehto (who broke a neck vertebra), Verstappen drove in the first two races of the season as a substitute, partnering Michael Schumacher. Verstappen made his Formula One debut at the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix. During the race he collided with Eddie Irvine, which triggered a multiple accident also involving Éric Bernard and Martin Brundle. Verstappen's car somersaulted, but he emerged unharmed. Irvine was judged to be responsible for the incident and was banned from the next race, increased to three after an unsuccessful appeal by his Jordan team. At the Pacific Grand Prix, Verstappen looked set for a points finish but spun off on cold tyres immediately after a pit stop. Lehto was fit for the next race at Imola, but his performances in subsequent races were disappointing and he was rested by Benetton following the Canadian, allowing Verstappen to return to the race seat.
One of the most dramatic incidents affected Verstappen at the German Grand Prix. During his first scheduled pitstop during the race, fuel leaked onto the car after the fuel hose was disconnected, setting the car, with Verstappen in it, ablaze for a brief period. As was usual at the time, Verstappen had slightly opened the visor of his helmet for the pit stop, and he walked away with slight burns to his nose.
A high point in this season was Verstappen's third place during the next Grand Prix in Hungary, Schumacher having allowed Verstappen to unlap himself on the final lap to pass Martin Brundle's stricken McLaren-Peugeot. He took another third place at the Belgian Grand Prix due to Schumacher's post-race disqualification from victory, and a fifth place at the Portuguese Grand Prix. A curiosity was his accident during a practice session for the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, in which Verstappen rammed his car into the pit wall causing debris to fly up and destroy a TV installation. Due to this accident, this equipment is now protected from the race track by acrylic glass.
For the last two races of the season, Verstappen was replaced by the more experienced Johnny Herbert in a bid to win the Constructors' Championship for Benetton. The team was unsuccessful in this aim and the prize went to the rival Williams team.
In 1995 he was stationed at Simtek by Benetton team principal Flavio Briatore. Despite some strong showings Verstappen only finished once in the five races he drove for the team. The team had financial troubles and went bankrupt after the Grand Prix of Monaco. After the Simtek debacle, Verstappen did some test driving with Benetton and Ligier.
In 1996 he drove for the Footwork team, and drove pretty well, running 5th in Interlagos and finishing 6th in Buenos Aires, but engine troubles prevented him from making a splash on the stage. During the GP of Belgium, a part of the suspension of Verstappen's car broke off, causing him to hit the railing. He ended up with a prolonged neck injury.
In 1997 he went to the Tyrrell-Ford team, but did not score, though he briefly ran 5th in the Canadian Grand Prix. He and his friend and teammate Mika Salo were dropped by the team at the end of the season after Tyrrell's new owners, British American Racing, opted for Ricardo Rosset and Tora Takagi instead. However, Stewart Grand Prix came to the rescue and Verstappen was drafted for the last 9 races of the 1998 season after Jan Magnussen had been shown the door. He was a test driver for the Benetton team earlier on in that same year, but the latter would not hire him as a permanent test driver for lack of sponsors.
For 1999 everything seemed to be going in the right direction for Verstappen. Near the end of 1998 he became the testdriver for the Honda Formula One project. He teamed up with old Tyrrell friends Rupert Manwaring and Harvey Postlethwaite, testing in 1999 and participating from the year 2000. All went well for the Honda test team until Harvey Postlethwaite died of a heart-attack. Not long after, Honda changed their plans from becoming a fully factory team to just an engine supplier, and Verstappen was again without a Formula One seat. He tested for the Jordan team in case Damon Hill decided to retire before the end of the season, but this came to nothing.
In 2000 he returned to Arrows (formerly known as Footwork), at that moment a promising team. He produced very strong results, moving up to 5th from nowhere in the Canadian Grand Prix, and finishing 4th in Monza whilst battling for the podium with Ralf Schumacher. But the many technical problems plagued Verstappen and his teammates Pedro de la Rosa (most notably when after the 2000 Austrian Grand Prix first corner shenanigans he and Verstappen ran 3rd and 4th) and Enrique Bernoldi. During the 2001 season Verstappen had some very good races, like in Sepang where he ran 2nd having started 18th, or at the A1-Ring, finishing 6th, but he also blotted his copybook with an incident at the Brazilian Grand Prix, which put him and Juan Pablo Montoya, who was leading at the time, out of the race. The Arrows proved to be fast, but quite unreliable. Verstappen finished the season with a contract for the next season, but ultimately it was put aside in favour of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Verstappen started looking for another team in 2002. He had almost signed a test contract with Sauber, but he turned out to be physically too large for the Sauber C21, which was smaller than its predecessor.</ref>
In 2003 Verstappen drove for European Minardi, a team which rarely scored points. He made an impression several times with the reliable but relatively slow Minardi, but left the Italian team because he did not feel like driving in the rear-guard for another year.His most impressive feats were topping Friday qualifying in France after a rain-hit session,and running 7th in the wet Interlagos, where judging from all retirements he could have finished in the top 5. He looked to get a contract with Jordan, but it was never realised.
Verstappen participated in 107 Grands Prix. He achieved two podium places, and scored a total of 17 championship points which makes him the best performing Dutch race driver in Formula One. His highest qualifying position was 6th at the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix.
Complete Formula One results
A1 Grand Prix
After two years of not participating in races, Verstappen was confirmed in July as driver of the A1 Netherlands team managed by seatholder Jan Lammers's Racing for Holland, for the A1 Grand Prix series. They won the feature race at Durban.
On 27 September 2006, Verstappen split with A1 Team Netherlands after failing to secure payment guarantees. This resulted from Verstappen only being paid for the 2005/06 season a few weeks before the next season started. He was replaced by Jeroen Bleekemolen for the first race of the 2006/07 season at the team's home race at Zandvoort.
Complete A1 Grand Prix results
(Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap) (sr = sprint race, fr = feature race)
Le Mans Series
In December 2007, Verstappen announced that he would take part in the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans-race, as well as enter the 1,000 kilometer races in the Le Mans Series. Driving a LMP2-class Porsche RS Spyder fielded by Van Merksteijn Motorsport, Verstappen is partnered by team owner Peter van Merksteijn. Jeroen Bleekemolen also joined the team for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
After winning the 1000km Catalunya and 1000km Spa, and finishing second in the 1000km Monza, Jos Verstappen won the LMP2 class of the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans. With his victory at the 1000km Nurburgring, Verstappen clinched the LMP2 Drivers' title and Van Merksteijn Motorsport won the LMP2 Manufacturers' title.
Verstappen is married to the Belgian ex-kart driver Sophie Kumpen, with whom he has two children: Max (b. 1997) and Victoria. Max is currently competing in kart racing and has won several cadet championships in the Benelux region. In December 2008, with the couple effectively separated, it was reported that he has appeared in court in Tongeren, Belgium, charged with assaulting her. He was not found guilty of assault, but was found guilty of threatening her in text messages and violating a previous restraining order. He was fined and was sentenced to three months probational suspended jail time.
Verstappen was previously convicted of assault in October 2000 over an incident at a karting track in 1998 in which a man suffered a fractured skull. He and his father were given five-year suspended sentences after reaching an out-of court settlement with the victim.
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