Max Verstappen is the favorite going into the new Formula 1 season. F1-Insider.com spoke to the Red Bull star about talent, Mick Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Max Verstappen, without exaggerating, you are considered the greatest talent in Formula 1. As the one who has the most feeling in his butt, in his accelerator and braking foot. Is talent something you were born with or is it also hard work?
Max Verstappen: Talent has to come naturally. I was lucky that both my mother and father raced. So I got the genes twice. But you can’t get very far on talent alone. You have to work very hard. That starts with karting. In Formula 1, of course, the amount of work is the greatest.
What’s the best way to define talent in terms of Formula 1 or driving?
Talent is when many things come easily to you at the very beginning. That you do things right away without having to think about them. I think talent accounts for 70 percent of success. But you still have to work very hard for the rest.
How can you briefly describe the 30 percent hard work that ultimately make the difference between winning and losing?
In karting, for example, it was a matter of understanding how the tires work or the engine, which you practically sit next to. My father was my teacher because he was also my engine tuner. Over time, you understand not only when you’re fast, but also why. And then it’s a matter of improving again and again. It’s no different in Formula 1. You always find opportunities for improvement, you just have to look for them.
You come across as extremely self-confident without seeming arrogant. Do you know anything like self-doubt?
I don’t think so. I always try to get the maximum out of myself. I do that very well. If that’s enough to win, then that’s good. If not, I can’t help it.
You’ve had two strict teachers in your career: your father and then Dr. Helmut Marko at Red Bull. That was a tough school. Who influenced you more?
My father. He started working with me when I was four years old and only stopped when I was 16 and went to Toro Rosso. I already had the perfect basic training behind me.
After the tests, you’re considered the favorite. Firstly, because your Red Bull was fast and caused virtually no problems. Secondly, because top favorite Mercedes was slower and had problems with the handling of the new car. How do you assess the balance of power?
I’m cautious about that. It’s well known that Mercedes never shows everything during testing – even though they obviously had a few problems. But I’m not kidding myself about that: If you win the world championship seven times in a row like Mercedes, you’re the favorite. What I can say, though: We at Red Bull had an almost perfect test. We’ve done everything. Now we have to see if that’s enough. For me, both Mercedes drivers are the ones to beat for now.
In modern Formula 1, how much difference can you still make as a driver? Did Lewis Hamilton only win so many titles because he had such a superior car?
When a driver has a dominant car, the opponents can’t do anything. But Lewis still had to beat his teammates and, with one exception, he always did. He’s already done a super job. Our goal must be to be as close as possible to Mercedes and thus be able to put them under pressure.
Hand on heart: How much slower can your car be compared to the best car so that you can still win as a driver?
(considers briefly). Two tenths per lap. I’m confident that I can make up that difference together with the team. Beyond that, it’s going to be difficult.
You have a new teammate in Sergio Perez. Can he support you in the battle with Mercedes better than his predecessors have managed in the past?
Sergio has already done a super job in the last two years with Racing Point. The feedback he gave during the tests was also promising. But we won’t be able to say for sure until after the first races.
How long do you have patience left as far as the first world championship title is concerned?
It’s not just patience, you also need a bit of luck in the process. That means you need the team and the car to help you achieve your goals. You need to be in the right place at the right moment. Lewis has certainly been that in recent years.
What do you think Mick Schumacher can do in his first season? You’ve known him since childhood.
For Mick, of course, it’s great to be racing in Formula 1 now. He did a great job in Formula 2 and deserves to move up. But it’s also clear that he still has a lot to learn. His Haas team is perfect for him. Because you can’t expect him to win there. He can make mistakes there without too much pressure and then learn from them. I’m sure he’ll do a good job. He’s always been very good, especially in terms of consistency. Of course, as everywhere else, the yardstick will be his teammate. He has to beat him.
Michael Schumacher and your father are friends. You used to go on vacation with the Schumachers. Are you still in touch?
I’m sure we’ll bump into each other more often in the paddock and have a chance to talk.
How do you assess Sebastian Vettel’s situation at Aston Martin?
It’s hard for me to judge from the outside. But I could tell from the test in Bahrain that he was in a very good mood. If the car is as good as it was last year, I wouldn’t put it past him to achieve podium finishes and maybe even a win or two.
One of your sponsors is the online used car platform CarNext. Is it possible that CarNext also had Formula 1 year-old Mercedes cars on offer and that Aston Martin has struck it big? After all, the similarities between the two cars in 2020 and again this year are striking …
Verstappen laughs loud: You’d best ask Toto Wolff (Mercedes team boss and close friend of Aston Martin boss Lawrence Stroll, editor’s note) about that!
You are more sought-after than almost anyone else in the motorsport scene. You can afford the luxury of choosing your own personal sponsors. Does that mean that CarNext, for example, is a partner that also fits you so well because of the car theme?
Absolutely. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. A partner whose business is cars is a good fit for me. Especially because of the Covid pandemic and the measures, it’s even more important to be able to shop online seriously. That applies to the automotive market in particular.
You made your first driving attempts in a road car with a Mercedes. Mercedes now dominates Formula 1. Can you give your sponsor Helmut Marko at Red Bull some hope that you won’t soon be driving a car with the star in the premier class as well?
If things continue as they did in the test, he need have no fear. You also have to remember that I’ve been with Red Bull for a long time now. I know the people there, I like them all.
Authors: Bianca Garloff and Ralf Bach
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Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)