Interview with Max: 'We are getting stronger every race'

Published on 05 June 2019 by Niels Hendrix

As we're set to complete the first third of the season in Montreal, Max Verstappen looks back at his campaign so far that has yielded two podium finishes and four fourth places. Is that enough for the Dutch ace? “It’s always nice to finish on the podium,” he says, “but as a team I think we want more.”

Max, we’re almost a third of the way into the season and we’ve had some indication of a form guide. How do you assess the situation so far?
“I think it’s been going quite well. We’ve maximised our results so far, so we can’t really complain. Of course we always want to win and we’re not in a winning position yet, but we’re all pushing really hard to be able to do that soon. The team is third in the championship and we are just maximising our potential, which is always very positive, as most of the time there’s always something that goes wrong; it’s never that easy to nail everything, so I think we are doing quite well.”

In Australia there were no major expectations, so your third place was obviously a fantastic result for the team and for Honda. What was your feeling that weekend?
“It was a good weekend in general, I think. Of course, to be on the podium and to score the first podium for Honda in the V6 era was very important and nice to see. I was really pleased with that weekend.”

Were you happy in the car at that early stage of the campaign or has that developed since?
“Yeah, to be honest, I felt quite comfortable in the car straight away [in testing], so it wasn’t so much of a problem.“

Your second podium came in Spain. Was it a good feeling to finish ahead of Ferrari in that race? Did it give you encouragement for the battles ahead?
“In general, that weekend was pretty good. We qualified fourth, but Mercedes were just very strong. We were fighting with Ferrari and I think at the beginning of the season, and especially in pre-season testing, they were the team to beat, so I think we are definitely taking steps in the right direction. It’s always nice to finish on the podium and I was happy to finish third, but as a team I think we want more.”

Do you think that trend has continued? Are you eking more out of the car each weekend?
“I think we are getting stronger every race weekend and we keep putting bits on the car that are making it faster, but as can you can see other teams are very strong and they also keep pushing very hard, so we just need to make sure that we keep doing a little bit better job of it than they do.”

You’re known as a driver who comes into race weeks with incredible drive to win. Where does that passion for victory come from?
“To be honest, I think everybody wants to win. But yes, I will always try my very best. From a young age my dad always drilled into me that you have to keep working hard. It’s not only on-track but also off-track – you’ve got to always keep improving the car and yourself. You’ve got to use all tools you have around you to try to find a better set-up or to try to find a way that makes you feel more comfortable in the car. My dad was always pushing me to do that, to find extra performance.”

Do you still have that kind of relationship with him, where after a race weekend you’ll sit down and talk through the race?

“It’s more in the background now, but yeah, I call him every day and we speak about set-ups I’m thinking about from one session to another and stuff like that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he says ‘yes, that’s right’ or not, it’s more about giving him feedback and updates on what I’m doing, so that he knows what’s going on.”

You’re quite lucky to have the sounding board of a close relation who has F1 experience. That must be very good for you?
“For sure. It’s always very helpful to have a dad who knows a lot about what you are doing and who has done it himself. I always enjoy sharing those things with him.”

Having a strong team around you helps. How is it going working alongside Pierre?
“Everything’s going well. I’ve known Pierre a long, long time and we’re working really well together. We also have a lot of fun together; he’s just a very nice guy. The team spirit is very high and everyone is very happy, so we’ll just keep pushing to try to get better results out of it.“

And do you feel the team’s relationship with Honda is boosting progress?
“The relationship with Honda is working really well. The communication is good, and that’s always crucial in getting more performance from both parties. At the moment I’m just very happy with how everything is going. We are winners and at Honda they are the same, so we are both pushing hard to become even more successful together.”

What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
“It’s very difficult to anticipate. We know that we have to improve, but things can change from track to track. There are places where you are naturally a bit more competitive than at others.”

“From my experience what always works best is to wait and see and don’t set a lot of goals. Just work hard and approach every single weekend as an opportunity to win, and we’ll find out at the end of the season how it went.”

Are there any races you’re particularly looking forward to that are coming up?
“I look forward to most of them. Spa is my favourite track, so I’m always looking forward to that one. In the past Mexico has been very successful for me, so you always look forward to going back to tracks where you know you have a bit more of a chance of having a good result.”

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