Max Verstappen visits Exact Live: 'Data helps us forward'

Published on 11 October 2018 by Mike Motilall

Wednesday, the whole day, Max Verstappen was present at Exact Live, the largest one-day business event in the Netherlands. In 2017 the event in Jaarbeurs in Utrecht drew a crowd of about 6,000 visitors. The 2018-edition was themed ‘Numberland’ and was about everything that people in their daily routine did with numbers. Max was present at a number of presentations and also made a guest appearance at a performance from illusionist Victor Mids. spoke to Max and asked him how important a partner like Exact is for him. “Of course very special”, says the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-driver. “Especially because we are hosting an event like Exact Live for a couple of years now. Every time we organize something like this, there are things you are able to make a great day of, e.g. like today. The event is also growing, apart from the fact that that is something nice to see, it’s also very important.”

On TV, Verstappen is regularly seen in an Exact-commercial where he is showcased as a ‘numbers animal’. What is the most important data for Max during a race weekend? “The most important data is of course the one coming from the car. This helps us forward. Think of data e.g. like balance, amount of fuel you save and the force when braking, so the cooling can be adjusted accordingly.”

Max is given some propositions at a session for some of Exacts invitees. Firstly he is asked to choose between solo or a team. “In Formula 1 you have the team with which you need to work with and also get the desired results, but ultimately the one in the car is the one that needs to bring home the results” says the Dutchman. “It’s partly solo and partly team work, but ultimately the team is much bigger and more important. There are some 800 persons working for just two cars.”

The second proposition is about the choice between preparation and improvisation. Max doesn’t quite entirely choose for preparation only, but also for a part improvisation. Max: “The start is something you are not almost able to prepare. I tend to look back at what we did the previous years, but every start is different. That’s just pure improv for me. When the lights go out, I then decide where I will head for. That’s something my father always told me. Someone might get off the line poor or well and then brake earlier or later than they normally would do.”

The third proposition is about the choice between focus and overview. Max says the following regarding that: “I am sometimes in the middle. Sometimes you can be so focused that you lose the overview in a race. That can be a major mistake. You need to be focused but also be aware of what is happening around you. That’s mainly about tyre strategy, how much you can push on certain tyres and how many laps there still are. For a major part I think that it's also down to experience. From my first race onwards, my overview has gotten a thousand times better, and it keeps getting better.”

Do you still analyze every race extensively with your father? Max: “Not per se every race. Sometimes you have an enormously boring race. Then you just simply focus yourself on the next one. But after a race like Suzuka, you talk about penalties, issues with the engines, and things like that. I explain those things to my dad because he isn’t there. You can always talk about those things with him. From a young age I have always done that with him.”

Is the car the same at every race? Max: “During the season the car is almost never in the factory. It gets set up at the track itself and any update is installed there and then. The chassis is adjusted accordingly. If there is a major update, we will even get a complete new chassis. We had that last year, when at the start of the season, the car wasn’t running that smoothly.”

“This year e.g. during a race weekend a new front wing arrives or even new sidepods. Even on the floor, work is done almost every weekend on things that the team thinks will be better. Everytime there is actually something new. After the Summer break, I got a new steering wheel for the first free practice. That was made of a lighter material and there were also some other buttons on it.”

“Something that I find very peculiar at the start of the season is the fact that the car has been developed but till the first day of testing, there isn’t a complete car, just parts. At a certain moment, the chassis arrives and then slowly the car is built. The day before testing starts, then you have a complete car. Everything needs to fit perfectly, and that is always a work of art at Red Bull. They are able to keep on developing for as long as possible and after that we can immediately start testing.”

Many things are measured in Formula 1. Is, despite all the data that is available, your gut feeling still the most important thing? Max’ reply: “I have a perfect example from the last race in Japan. The data showed that running less wing would be quicker. Daniel Ricciardo ran with more wing than I did, but I didn’t quite have the right feeling on Friday. The car was hard to handle and I was not feeling comfortable. Despite that the data showed that less wing was faster, I didn’t agree with it. I wanted more wing on the car. The day after, it immediately went a lot better, easier and I did feel more comfortable. You just simply have the feeling that the other set up has more to offer.”