Max Verstappen full of hope regarding Honda: 'They have advanced considerably'

Published on 28 August 2018 by Mike Motilall

A day after his excellent third place finish at his ‘homerace’ at Spa, Max Verstappen was a guest at Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk. The Dutchman was accompanied by two-time Olympic skating champion Kjeld Nuis and former footballer Ruud Gullit, with whom he recently shot a commercial with. The show was hosted by the two regulars: Jack van Gelder and Frank Evenblij. They look back at the race weekend as well as preview the coming season where a lot will be changing for the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team.

“Absolutely”, is Max’ reply to the question if he was happy with his podium finish in Belgium. “It was also a bit unexpected because we didn’t have the race pace this weekend due to the long straights. The last two years were a bit unlucky at Spa, so if you still make it in the end, it’s extra special.”

The many thousands of Dutch fans on the grand stands made the podium even nicer: “There were indeed some orange caps and shirts”, says Max with massive understatement. “It was very nice to witness. Before the race, I had stopped at the Max Verstappen Grand Stand and it gave me goosebumps.”

Despite the deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes, Verstappen can look back at the race with a positive feeling: “You always try to make the best with what you have, even though you don’t have anything to lose or even win. Eventually you also want to better yourself and get to know the car well. But the car felt very good.”

Verstappen walks us through how his race went: “I myself had a pretty bad getting off the line, but it worked to my own advantage, because I stayed on the inside. The overtake on Esteban Ocon was also a good one. One from like our Formula 3-period. He went on the inside and I on the outside, but he stayed in the middle. Eventually I still tried to go back on the inside and he luckily went back to the left. It was just pure instinct and feeling. The move on Perez was easier. It’s a Force India against a Red Bull and you know they cannot brake as late as you can. Had it been a Ferrari or Mercedes, the move would have been more difficult.”

That Verstappen had to do these overtakes on the Force India’s, had to do with him starting from seventh. Max explains what happened during the somewhat disappointing qualifying: “It was finally dry when we got on to the track. Normally, in Q3 you would have had only enough fuel on board to do one lap. Just to be safe, we added more fuel for an extra lap, because you never know. At a certain point, it started to rain, so we immediately went back in. That was well planned by the team. We got on our intermediates and wasted no time heading back out, because we thought that it would keep raining. Eventually we had to come back in, because we ran out of fuel. Then it stopped raining and there were only two-and-a-half minutes remaining. You immediately know that you are going to drop back.”

During the Summer break, between the Belgian and Hungarian Grands Prix, it was announced that Daniel Ricciardo was going to leave the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team at the end of the season and move to Renault. For Max also it was a complete surprise: “The whole team was surprised especially that he would be going to Renault”, the youngster explains. “If you move to Ferrari or Mercedes, a team would understand that. But even Christian Horner said it himself, he thought that he was making a joke, so that says it all.”

On the question if Max finds it a pity that his Australian team mate is leaving, he replies: “We have always had a great time together, but it’s not like he is leaving completely. He is going to another team so he will still be in Formula 1.”

With Pierre Gasly, Verstappen will once again get an exceptional team mate. Max therefore has high regard for the Frenchman and expects him to also be able to fight at the front: “Absolutely, if not you cannot drive in Formula 1. Before Formula 1, he had already proven that he knows how to put the pedal to the metal. I know him from go-karting, we raced against one another.”

New next year at Red Bull Racing are also the Honda power units. Max shows that he has the utmost confidence in the Japanese manufacturer: “Looking at where they came from the last couple of years, they have advanced considerably. You very rarely see something get broken. The most important thing is that they want to take things to the limit. They have the means, which is very important if you want to take on the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes. All in all, Honda is a much more serious candidate. They have already been on the test rig and want a lot of gearboxes from us to prepare themselves for the coming year. They are enormously driven and want to do thousands of miles on the test rig.”

Despite the positive perspectives, Max doesn’t expect to be able to fight for the championship immediately next year: “Everyone wants that, but in Formula 1 that’s a tricky thing. At first we will need to take some more steps, but hopefully at the end we will be close. The year after, we should be out in full force.”

Will it be a year of investing? “I think so, but in a positive way. We will in any case know what we will be getting and which steps are being taken.”

Finally there are only eight races left this season and realistically spoken the third place is still up for grabs, but Max isn’t bothered: “Finishing third earns you nothing. If you finish third or fifth, it really makes no difference for me.”