“Last year we were lucky,” said Verstappen at a Thursday press round this year, “and we also had a better car compared to Mercedes and Ferrari at the time. This time, I can’t say we have a better car than Mercedes at the moment. I’m realistic and say: It’s going to be difficult.”
This year, and against all odds, Max won again in Austria and for that, he was celebrated frenetically by his team and all the Dutch fans that made the trip south to support their hero.
Being nostalgic, let’s stop here for a moment and look back a year ago when I had an opportunity to sit next to Max.
Normally journalists aren’t on board in the so-called taxi rides in the run-up to a race. For ABMS Red Bull made an exception last year. Chief Advisor Helmut Marko (75) organized a ride for me.
The car: An Aston Martin Vanquish S. 603 hp. Top speed: 320 km / h.
Important: The car belonged to Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz.
Verstappen smiled: “That’s why I’m not allowed to do any nonsense right now.”
He looks concentrated, both hands on the steering wheel. His mouth slightly puckered. As we dashed off out of the garage, his tension dissipated. With a winning smile, he looked over at me and asked: “Everything okay?”
Sure! Apart from the fact that I was hanging in the straps, sometimes in the right and sometimes in the left corner of my seat. Centrifugal forces tugging at my neck.
And Max? The car is his friend. Playfully he rushed the Aston Martin around the track. Max looked over at me, smiling, silently enjoying the ride. On the next straight, at speed 280, he took his right hand off the steering wheel and props his elbow on the center console. Like a coffee trip. “I like such fast laps,” he said and grinned.
After two laps, my wild hunt with Verstappen was over. And the respect for his driving skills had grown. Even though he will not be able to do anything against the Silver Arrows this year, winning the occasional race against all odds and overwhelming competition will propel him for much more in the future.
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.