Las Vegas Grand Prix: Tom Jones song a Max Verstappen favourite

Tom Jones
Tom Jones performing at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, a venue he dominated for decades

Whenever Max Verstappen crosses the Formula 1 Grand Prix finishing line in first place, a small part of that victory might just be thanks to the voice of one very famous Welshman.

The Dutch racing driver has revealed he is a big fan of legendary crooner Tom Jones's Green Green Grass of Home, which was piped over his headset into his car as he took his victory lap in the Sao Paolo Grand Prix in Brazil earlier this month.

Fans watching the in-car feed were even able to hear him - reluctantly - join in with the lyrics, despite truthfully telling his Red Bull team he was not much of a singer.

Appropriately, Verstappen's next appearance is at a new F1 street circuit in Las Vegas - home for many, many years to Tom Jones' residencies, most famously at the MGM Grand Hotel.

Jos and Max Verstappen
Jos Verstappen used to play Tom Jones in the car to son Max as they drove across Europe

Verstappen, 26, who has won the last three F1 world championships, started out his early career in the company of his father Jos, also an F1 driver.

The pair used to drive across Europe to karting meetings for the budding young driver, listening to his dad's favourite Tom Jones songs, including Green Green Grass of Home.

When asked by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner what Max's favourite song was, Jos told him it was none other than Jones's 1966 hit, which has previously been played to him after winning races.

So - fittingly - it seems that nostalgia for his younger self may have played a role in the driver's love of the song, which is itself a yearning for an irrecoverable past.

Where is the Green Green Grass of Home?

Sir Tom Jones train at Treforest station
The train named after Sir Tom Jones stops off in his old home town - Treforest

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Tom Jones knows he comes from Treforest, part of Pontypridd in the south Wales valleys, where It's Not Unusual (sorry) to see large amounts of rain, and, you've guessed it, a lot of very green grass as a result.

There is even a rather famous book memorialising the valleys' scenery - How Green was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.

So casual listeners could fairly assume Tom is eulogising the Green Green Grass of (his) Home.

But they would be wrong.

Treforest, south Wales
It may be more trees than grass but you can definitely see green in Treforest, Tom's home town...

The song was composed in 1964 by Claude "Curly" Putnam, an American songwriter who grew up in northern Alabama, just over 100 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, the beating heart of country music in the US.

Putnam had allegedly been inspired to write the song after watching the film The Asphalt Jungle, which details a robbery gone wrong in New York and follows one one of those responsible back to the Kentucky country home he has yearned to return to, only to die from injuries as he arrives.

Green Green Grass of Home treads a similar path. A singer recounts his arrival back home, with his parents waiting at the railway station and his sweetheart running down the road to him.

Kingsland Terrace, Treforest, where Tom Jones grew up
... although there is less green on show at his actual childhood home

They return to his old house, and he repeats several times how good it is to touch the "green, green grass of home".

But then the song takes a darker turn, as it is revealed the singer is merely dreaming. He wakes in a prison cell on the day of his execution, knowing he will only return to be buried underneath that green, green grass.

The song was originally recorded by a well-known country singer, Johnny Darrell, and was covered by no fewer than 11 other artists before Jones came across it on a Jerry Lee Lewis album on a visit to New York.

Speaking years later, Jones said Lewis, whom he already knew well, asked to hear his version of it during a UK tour. The rock'n'roll pioneer told Jones it sounded "like a number one" to him.

Tom Jones performing in Pontypridd
Tom Jones performing at a concert in Pontypridd in 2005 to mark his 65th birthday

He was not wrong. The song took Jones back to the top of the charts in the UK and to number 11 in the US billboard.

Although acknowledging that many people probably do not realise the full story the song is telling, Jones has previously said the idea of the "green grass of home" has a universal appeal to people's nostalgia.

It made him think of returning to Treforest on the train from London and seeing that things were very similar to when he lived there as a child.

Maybe Verstappen is reliving those formative car drives with his dad when he listens to the song. Although not so much green, green grass, as long, long road.