Czech, who takes photos in F1 Verstappen: Max takes nothing but a win –

From the first moment he joined the team, he knew that he was a little different from Vettel or the other riders. He could be seen focusing on what he wanted – to win. It was surprising to me to see how mature he was for his age and how he took nothing but victory. He won for the first time in Barcelona during his first race for Red Bull (2016) and after another three Grand Prix he reappeared on the podium, he was second. But he didn’t rejoice at all, he didn’t show any emotion. And when we asked him about it after the race, he told us that he didn’t win. From the beginning, it was clear that he wanted to be world champion. He had potential you don’t see in other riders. I have often seen pilots who are happy to be in F1 at all. They enjoy privileges, popularity. Max didn’t, he was interested in racing.

Photo: Archive Vladimír Rys

Czech photographer Vladimír Rys (right) runs after the lucky Max Verstappen after he became the F1 world champion in Abu Dhabi.Photo: Archive Vladimir Rys

The public knows him as an aggressive rider, which he probably inherited from Dad Jos. He is said to be smart again after his mother, who also raced. Is he like that behind the scenes?

No. Max’s picture on the track is completely different from when he’s off the monopost. All these great world champions showed a certain amount of selfishness on the track. And he has to have it, which was seen during this season with both Max and Lewis, and in history with Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost or Damon Hill. Without it, they would not break through and defeat others. But Max is different behind the scenes.

A normal funny guy who cares about things like everyone else. He plays video games, he has a sense of humor. His dad was extra tough on him in his upbringing, but without him he wouldn’t be in F1, nor would he become world champion. I know that the strict image of Max exists and that people have a view of him that you mentioned, but outside the monopost is different. He is honest with us and does not change the mood. For example, some riders don’t like you to approach them during qualifying, putting the lens close to their faces. Not Max. I was standing next to him on the grid now in Abu Dhabi, and he radiated calm, no nervousness or stress. He makes jokes with his engineer on the grid and is much more relaxed than other riders. They have a completely different facial expression on Sunday, there is a noticeable tension on them. Max holds the face of the poker player and shows no emotion. He is mentally strong.

Another Czech photographer, Jiří Křenek, who works for Mercedes, told me how difficult it is to take pictures of Lewis Hamilton, because he is very withdrawn. What about Max?

Yes, Lewis is known for keeping his distance from everyone, even within the team and his mechanics. But in a way, all riders have it, because everyone would like to be friends with them, they wanted something from them, so they only have to close the door and let only a certain number of people they trust. Max is stable in this. It is known that he also has a certain aperture and distance. There are only a few people in his immediate area – manager Raymond, dad and two or three other people. You don’t go to F1 to make friends here. The environment is very competitive for that. Max has a professional relationship with me, but in general it is difficult to get to the riders on a personal level.

Let’s go to the last race of the season, which was decided only by the infarct final round. How did you and the team experience?

This cannot be described, perhaps the photos show how tense emotions they were. I’ve been with the Red Bull team since 2007, so it was the 15th season this year, and even though we won four titles with Sebastian Vettel, I don’t remember experiencing anything like that. Although his first title was close. But Sunday will go down in F1 history. It was an excellent show for the audience. Exactly what F1 needed, because Mercedes has won almost everything for the last seven years.

Photo: Archive Vladimír Rys

After the victory of Max Verstappen, the Czech photographer Vladimír Rys will embrace Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. He has been the official team photographer of the stable since 2007.Photo: Archive Vladimir Rys

Yes, it’s a bitter defeat for them, while for us it’s huge emotions that have seen adult men cry. I tear myself. Emotions were concentrated on the last round, which subsequently created their explosion. When we look at the pictures and shots in 10 years, it will still affect us emotionally.

How many photographers contributed to the Red Bull footage?

As a team photographer, the stable also uses one photographer from the agency he hires. So only the two of us were so close.

But while Verstappen and the team rejoice, you have to work and capture those emotions. How difficult was it for you to suppress your euphoria and focus on work?

I try to be emotionally restrained, but I didn’t know myself on Sunday because it was an emotional avalanche that rushed at us. I took pictures, but at the same time he was screaming like a lion, which fortunately was not visible through the respirator. It was emotional, which helps to a certain extent, because you transfer what you feel and see into the photos. So if you are a technically proficient photographer, you can capture it and that is the emotional side that makes photography interesting. Maybe I managed to pass that on. I don’t think I was so emotional during the photo shoot, even though I was at four Olympics, I took photos of the World and European Football Championships, I experienced titles with Vettel.

They took place, but I did not attend. Mercedes protests stopped us, so I had to edit and submit photos by five in the morning. And at six in the morning I had a transfer to the airport, from where I flew back to Greece. But what I heard was fun. The team was on a yacht in the port by the circuit and quite enjoyed it.

Photo: Archive Vladimír Rys

Czech photographer Vladimír Rys has been photographing F1 since 2005. Two years later, he became the official team photographer for the Red Bull stable.Photo: Archive Vladimir Rys

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Czech, who takes photos in F1 Verstappen: Max takes nothing but a win –