Shortly before qualifying for the United States Grand Prix began on Saturday, news broke that Mateschitz had passed away at the age of 78 after a long illness.
Mateschitz led the Red Bull brand into Formula 1 as a sponsor before moving on to acquire two teams, as well as being instrumental in the development of several young drivers including Verstappen.
OBITUARY: Dietrich Mateschitz 1944 – 2022
Red Bull chose to give Verstappen a race seat at the age of just 17 in 2015, paving the way for him to become the series’ youngest winner and two-time world champion.
Verstappen qualified third on Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas, finishing 0.092 seconds behind polesitter Carlos Sainz of Ferrari.
Verstappen said the news made a “difficult entry into qualifying” for everyone at Red Bull and that the result was “inconsequential” in context.
“We talk more about what happened today, as well as what it meant to everyone within the team, what it has built for Formula 1, the company itself Red Bull, and for me personally,” said Verstappen.
“Because without him, I wouldn’t be sitting here today, and I wouldn’t have had the success that I have. It’s very difficult for everyone on the team.
“Luckily, I got to see him two weeks ago, so we could spend some time together. Still a tough day.”
Max Verstappen celebrates his race victory with Dietrich Mateschitz, CEO and Founder of Red Bull
Photo by: Manuel Guria / Motorsport Pictures
Verstappen said after jumping out of the car at COTA that Red Bull will “try to make him proud tomorrow”.
The team will claim its fifth Formula 1 constructors’ title on Sunday as long as Ferrari does not overtake it by more than 19 points.
Discussing his session, Verstappen said he found the lap “very difficult” due to the wind conditions in the first sector, as well as the difficulty in getting his tires in the right temperature window.
“We tried a few different things,” said Verstappen.
“I think at the end of the day, we were competitive on both strategies as we tried, and it was only on my first turn in Q3 that I lost like three-tenths going into the first corner, just hit a few bumps and lost the rear.
“It was really tough out there. And then the second run was really good in sector one, sector two, we looked really strong, and then we ran out of tires a bit in the last sector with a big overtaking in the second-to-last corner.
“But overall we were still very close to pole. In the last race it was the other way around, I was pole but it was all good. Now when you don’t put it all together you’re P3, but the same distance between the cars the three.
“I still think it’s a good result. We know we have a fast race car. I think anyway tomorrow we have to be strong.”
Verstappen will move to second on the grid tomorrow as a result of Charles Leclerc’s penalty. Sainz said he believed Verstappen remained the favorite for the race given Red Bull’s recent strength in the long run, and that he was “realistic” about his chances of turning the lead into a win.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m the favourite, or not,” said Verstappen. “I’ll just have fun there.”