Max reflects on 2019 with Ziggo: 'Winning Austria was emotional'

Published on 15 December 2019 by Stefan Meens

In an exclusive end-of-year interview with Ziggo Sports, Max Verstappen reflected on an intense 2019 Formula 1 season.

Despite finishing third in the drivers’ championship, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver did not celebrate his achievements elaborately. “I didn’t have a special celebration or anything. Of course, third is better than fourth, but it’s first I’m after.”

Max started the opening six races well with two third and four fourth places. “Of course, we want to win, but we weren’t fast enough at that point. But it wasn’t dramatic and we were scoring points consistently. Apart from Monaco, where we had bad luck with the pit stop, we maximised the result in the other five races.”

The first of Max’ three 2019 wins came in Austria, where the Dutchman took his second consecutive win at the Red Bull Ring. “That was emotional and an amazing feeling. The races beforehand, we weren’t that great on pace and suddenly we won Austria. We couldn’t have planned it any better. We’d brought updates to that Grand Prix and the weekend was going well. The temperatures were really high and we chose the right compromise on cooling”, explains Max.

“For me, it was the win of the season. It all came together and as team there was no better moment to win.” On his way to victory, Max battled with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for P1. “As we got near the end of the race, the gap was closing. I thought I could get to him with a few laps to go. I had to really push and keep the tyres alive.”

After a failed first attempt, Max resolutely overtook Leclerc the second time round. “It was hard racing, but that’s part of the game.”

At the next race meeting, at Silverstone, the two youngsters once again battled it out. “That was a good race. It’s nice to see the FIA choosing our fight as the ‘Action of the Year 2019’. It showed they really let us race.”

Max’ second win came a round later during a chaotic and wet Hockenheim race. “I was lucky when I spun, but I don’t think many drivers would’ve pulled off a 360 spin. Nevertheless, it was great to win such a crazy race. It was really difficult to keep making the right decisions. At one point, there was only one dry racing line, so I had to stay really focussed to keep the lap times going.”

In Hungary, Max finally clinched the first pole position of his Formula 1 career. “It was an amazing Saturday. We even beat Mercedes with our old engine, which had less power. Round the Hungaroring, less power is less of an issue, and it was a great lap.”

The Belgian Grand Prix proved to be the absolute low of the season with Anthoine Hubert’s fatal accident in Saturday’s F2 race. “After all that, I wasn’t really up for racing on Sunday. It was tough.”

The race itself ended in Eau Rouge after a collision wit Raikkonen in the first corner. “We weren’t really competitive and it wasn’t a good weekend. I had to use and old Spec 2 engine which meant I couldn’t use full power in qualifying. In hindsight, we should’ve switched to a new engine and we would’ve been competitive. But I didn’t want to start at the back for all the fans. It just wasn’t working in Belgium.”

Many fans rated Max’ win at the Brazilian Grand Prix as his best of the season. “It wasn’t a bad race at all. It was great that all the action happened on track.”

The many overtakes resulted in Max being cheered on by thousands of fans. “It’s amazing but I’m trying not to think about it too much. I need to focus on performing, otherwise nobody will be cheering for me. But, of course, I wave to my fans.”

“I live for podiums and of course wins, but everything around it can be great too and give me goose bumps. When I watch the Austrian Grand Prix, I get goose bumps.”

Max finished his season with a second place in Abu Dhabi, sealing third place in the drivers’ standings. Based on that, it appears Honda has made good progress. “Compared to Mercedes, we’re close on power, so the pressure is on for next year. We need the pressure and we need to raise the bar. Everyone has to be at their best. The same is expected of me.”

At the end of the interview, Max is asked to most important question: Are you ready for the title? “Absolutely.” And Honda? “We’re on the right track, so let’s hope we have a good winter. I’ve seen a huge amount of commitment but we need a good winter.”