One of the strangest stories coming out of the Algarve in December involved reigning Formula One world champion Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman, who won an extraordinary 19 of the 22 Grand Prix races held last year and was also world champion for the Red Bull team in 2021 and 2022, was reported to have arrived in the Algarve for a holiday with his family and friends.
Their plan apparently was to rent 20 cars from the Sixt car rental company at Faro Airport and take them for a drive at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve racing circuit in Portimão.
According to media reports, Verstappen wanted to hire the Mercedes AMG GT coupé, which is capable of accelerating from zero to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds and achieving a top speed of 315 km/h.
A company representative denied their request, reportedly referring to rules suggesting a driver of his age (26) did not have sufficient experience to pilot such a potent car. Instead, they were forced to opt for a BMW 5 series.
Sixt initially released an official response to the incident, explaining, “The employees of our franchise partner in Portugal have only followed the rules that arise for insurance reasons. In order to find a customer-friendly solution on site, Mr Verstappen was provided with another premium vehicle.”
Later, towards the end of the year, the company qualified this response, noting, “However, there can be special circumstances that justify a deviation from rules. This is such a case. We apologise to Mr Verstappen. He can rent the car he wants from us at any time. There is, of course, no doubt at all about his driving skills and his experience with powerful cars.”
While sources said to be close to Verstappen described the original ban as “astonishing”, they stressed that the world champion had accepted that “those are the rules, so he abided by them”.