Max in Ziggo end-of-the-year interview: '2020 was my best season so far'

Published on 25 December 2020 by Niels Hendrix

Last week, Olav Mol and Jack Plooij travelled to Monaco for the end-of-year interview with Max Verstappen, which was aired on Ziggo Sport on Christmas Day. In the one-hour broadcast, the first topic was a look back on the high expectations that were expressed by Red Bull Racing prior to the 2020 Formula 1 season.

“We were all hopeful, of course. At the time I thought ‘we’ll see’, but it all looked positive, of course,” says Max, who explains why Mercedes nevertheless started the year with a head start. “I think they were annoyed by the difference in top speed with Ferrari the year before. I think they worked overtime to make up for that and we at Red Bull were ultimately the victim of that, I think. You always have to be positive and everyone at Red Bull, including the factory, gives it their all.”

Yet, there was a moment when Max thought that the championship would not be achievable. He says: “After the first weekend I thought the gap was big, but at the time we also had some problems. The following Grand Prix was in the rain. In the third race you saw that the gap was quite big and then you know that you will never be able to catch up, especially because all the races were scheduled so close together.”

The year was to start in Melbourne but, at the last minute, was postponed until further notice just before the free practices. This was because of the corona virus that was spreading around the world at that time. “I understood. Of course, no measures had been taken at all in the Formula 1-paddock at the time. I thought it was sensible that the Grand Prix was cancelled. ”

When the Formula 1 circus started again, in July, it was initially without spectators. How much did you miss all the Orange fans? Max: “That was more on some circuits than on others. It was mainly the atmosphere that I missed. What I also missed, were the big TV screens next to the track. Since there were no fans, they weren’t there as well. So I couldn’t have a look during my race. That was actually a big loss.”

In the end, the seventeen Grands Prix also brought some highlights for Max, including a pole position in Abu Dhabi and two victories in the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone and at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. “Silverstone was my best win this year, because it was completely unexpected”, says Max. “Especially since Mercedes was so dominant at the time, I didn’t think about winning and didn’t feel like we were going to win a race this year. That victory was really a great feeling. The win in Abu Dhabi was also great, of course, but by then the battle for the championship was already over, but also a good result.”

In addition to these highlights, there were also a few disappointments to deal with. There were five DNF’s and Max narrowly missed out on pole position in Turkey in the rain. He was very disappointed with that. Max: “There haven’t been many moments where I could have done much better in qualifying. In Turkey I had no grip during qualifying, there was no temperature in the intermediate tires. It was not easy. I was on top in all sessions all weekend, and in the one run where it should have come together, it just didn’t work out. I was so disappointed.”

In Hungary, Max slid into the tyre barriers while on his way to the grid. His race seemed to be over before it even started. “The handlebar and pushrod were broken. You can replace it, but not the wishbone. Then it would have been over”, explains Max. “No other team but Red Bull could have fixed that so quickly.”

Next year, Max will have Sergio Perez as his new teammate. Isn’t beating your teammate always the first goal? “Yes, you always want to be ahead”, says Max. “It is important for the team that we can now hopefully start the fight with two cars. I think Sergio always does very well in races. Aggressive, yet in control.”

In summary, looking back on the year 2020, are you satisfied going into the Winter break? Max: “Regarding myself, yes. I always look very critically at myself to see what can be improved. I think I’ll always be the first to admit that. I think I performed better this season than last year. That’s what you want. You want to perform as constant as possible without making mistakes. Of course there are always moments that could be better, but I don’t think there is a driver who is flawless for a whole season, not even Lewis. You always try to work on yourself, also for next year. I certainly cannot complain about 2020. I think it was my best season so far.”