Exclusive interview with Max (part 2): 'I always focus on myself'

Published on 07 October 2019 by Stefan Meens

At Exact Live 2019, Verstappen.nl sat down with Max Verstappen for an in-depth interview.

In part one, Max reflected on his season so far and Formula 1’s future regulation proposals. In the second part below, the Dutchman discusses the upcoming Japanese Grand Prix, his role within Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and his passion for sim racing.

This year is your first season as the most experienced driver with Red Bull Racing. Do you notice a change in the role you have within the team?
“Absolutely. The team listens more to my input, but I think that’s normal if I’m paired with kind off a rookie. On my side of the garage, not much has changed. I always gave feedback about how I wanted the car. Now it’s maybe a bit more one-sided, before it was Daniel and me together.”

Who do you want as your team mate next year?
I don’t care. I’ve always had a good relationship with Pierre so it’s a shame he had to go back to Toro Rosso. I also get on well with Albon. All three of us have known each other from karting when we raced each other in 2010. So I don’t mind who my team mate will be.”

Do you like a team mate who is hot on your heels?
“That’s both the best for the team and myself. If someone pushes me, I’ll drive faster. You have to work together to achieve the best result. But you always want to beat your team mate, of course.”

Do you analyse you competitors?
“We have a lot of info and we look at GPS-data. We compare laps and I re-watch the races. It’s interesting to hear the team radio. Some drivers you know better than others so you know better how to ‘break’ them. It’s a psychological game, also with team mates. But I mainly look at myself and try to improve as you can never really know what happens within other teams.”

Both you and Lando Norris are part of a new generation that love to race day and night. Do you participate in sim racing purely for fun or do you think it helps in real racing life?
“Recently I’ve been sim racing a lot and I don’t think it’ll harm things if I keep doing it. You’re always dealing with racing, starts, pit stops, traffic. You’re also able to change a lot of the set-up. It doesn’t always have the same effect as in real-life but you’re still thinking about racing. When I got in the car for the first time in winter testing, I still had the callous on my hands from sim racing.”

How do you imagine life after Formula 1?
“I think I would just drive for fun, without anyone writing about it or for it to matter. A dream would be to have my own circuit with a museum in which I’d have the cars I’ve collected over the years. I love that sort of stuff.”

What cars have you collected thus far?
“Every year I get a car, which is pretty special. I don’t want to sell them. I want to keep them and build a museum around it. In the Max Verstappen Store in Swalmen we put my 2015 Toro Rosso on display and currently people can see the 2016 Toro Rosso there.

What needs to happen for you to be satisfied when you finish the season in Abu Dhabi?
“If we’ve been more competitive and have been able to fight for wins more often.”

Do you think you can clinch a third win in a row in Mexico?
“You’d think so as we’ve won the last two. But this year will be more difficult because Ferrari is so fast on the straights. I don’t think it’ll be the same as other years.”

What’s your schedule like in the lead up to the Japanese Grand Prix.
“This week I’m heading to Japan where I’ve got to do an event for Honda. After that, I’ll spend Tuesday at the Honda factory but I enjoy visiting them. I’ve got a Red Bull event in Tokio on Wednesday and from Thursday onwards I’m at the circuit.”

Is it true the team will be able to run a new fuel spec for the race at Suzuka?
“Yes, over the years, fuel updates have always resulted in the biggest gains  so we’re expecting quite a bit from it. I don’t think the others will bring updates on that front.”