Year-end interview with Max Verstappen: 'It was a successful season'

Published on 09 December 2018 by Raymond Snip

The 2018 Formula 1 season has finished two weeks ago. In the final race in Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen finished with a superb third place, securing fourth place in the world championship. On the Monday after the Grand Prix, Ziggo Sports presenter Rob Kamphues had an in-depth interview with the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver. On the waters of Yas Island we reflected on Max’ season, which after a somewhat troublesome start was defined by strong results.

After a long season, it is now time for a well-deserved vacation. How much time do you take for that? "Until the beginning of January," Max says. "Then it will get serious and we will start training again. It is nice to be home for a few weeks." There may be some deviation from the usually strict eating and drinking habits but the Dutchman must nevertheless keep an eye on his weight. Therefore any weight gain is not likely: "Rather not, because it takes really long to lose it again. That was the case one year, and I barely got rid of it by the pre-season test sessions."

Max also thinks it's important not to have anything to worry about: "It’s been a long season. The past few months I have been on the road a lot, so it's nice to be home again. That's important to me."

We look back on February, the moment when the RB14 made its first runs. How many laps are needed to know where the car ranks? "That's always hard to say during the winter tests", Max explains. "It was clear that Mercedes and Ferrari were still faster, you could easily see that in the long runs." Nevertheless, the feeling was good: "The car was actually pretty okay, at least a lot better than the year before. It felt good and there were no weird things. You saw, however, that we were still slower on the straight."

After the winter tests, Max had a somewhat tough start of the season. The five-time race winner is also aware of this: "When I look back on the season, I have had two races where it just did not go well. Those were China and Monaco, I blame myself for that."

The question is raised with whom those difficult moments are discussed: "Usually with my dad and my manager Raymond", Max replies. "They are also the ones that know me best. In the end, these are not very long conversations. I was aware that it was not good or that it did not go well, but it's not like we sit down together and decide to throw everything upside down. These are things you learn from. Then you just move on. I am not a long discussions kind of guy, but more of the short talks, clear answers."

To what extent can Max properly admit his mistakes?" I think I can do that very well," says Verstappen. "I am always very honest to myself to what extent I screwed up or not. In China I went to Vettel after the race and in Monaco I also admitted very quickly that it wasn’t the wind or something like that."

After Monaco the 21-year old Dutchman turned his negative series into a successful season full of great results. Max explains how he recovered: "My dad reminded me of the old days, when sometimes I had moments where things were a little rough. He always said: 'when you think you are not fast enough, you are still fast enough'. After Monaco, he reminded of that and I applied it. You are sitting more relaxed in the car and less eager. It seems like it all comes to you a bit easier."

What were the three most remarkable moments this year? "The victory in Austria, in Mexico and the race in Brazil", Max says. "In Brazil there was simply the disbelief that something like that happens. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great race. How often does it happen that you overtake two Ferrari's and two Mercedes's on track? Of course, I was very happy with that."

After the final race, Red Bull Racing has said farewell to Renault as engine supplier, as it will race with the Honda engine next year. At times there was the occasional criticism of the French manufacturer’s engine, although Max’ goal was always to improve it: "It was never my intention to put them down, but I want to make it better. Look, we now have a deal with Honda, but if we had continued with Renault next year, I would want us to make progress."

"I am just very clear in what I say. I can also say that they can take it easy, but I am not like that. It can and must be better and I just always want full commitment. However, you have to be open to criticism, that is how I grew up. I'm sorry if you can’t deal with that, but I'm not here to join in with the Olympic idea. I want to win and for that all parties have to be committed."

What are Dutchman’s views regarding the upcoming partnership with Honda? "Hopefully it will be a long-term collaboration", Verstappen states. "I don’t expect that everything runs smoothly at once, but you can’t expect that, I think. I will always be focussed, but you also have to believe in the project and be patient."

What are the expectations for next season in general? Max is hopeful, but nevertheless remains realistic: "I do not expect that we can really fight for the championship at the start of the season, but if we are just a little bit better than this year, we can be closer to the competition and run a consistent season, that is already an improvement for the championship. You do not necessarily meed to have the best car."

Finally, Max is asked to summarize the 2018 season in a few sentences: "It was a successful season. At the start it was not easy and we learned from it. Then we performed a number of races beyond expectations. I also learned that I always have to listen to myself and believe in myself. You can always improve yourself, because you never stop learning."

And the fourth place in the championship? "Let's put it this way: it is of course better than fifth, but it is also not a third or second. For me, the only thing that counts is being number one."