Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took part in the official Thursday press conference organized by the FIA where he met with other drivers and the press to discuss various topics.
He spoke about the season opening Australian Grand Prix, the first point he ever scored in F1, the physical demands of the 2017 cars and how he thinks they can close the gap to the front runners….
Let’s cast our minds back to Melbourne. You finished fifth, what is the mood in the camp after that result?
Pretty similar to be honest. For sure we have to improve, but that’s how it is at the moment. We are definitely working hard to get new parts to the car as soon and try to just get the pace up a bit and be closer to the top two teams, because behind us is at the moment quite a big gap, as you could see. I think I could have done two pit stops in Melbourne and still have had the same position. We’ll see, on a normal race track here in Shanghai.
Do you expect to be closer this weekend to Ferrari and Mercedes?
I don’t know. We’ll find out.
Well, what about the gap to those two teams – how long do you think it will take to close it?
It’s a bit difficult to say really. It’s quite a big gap, but I’m quite confident that we can definitely close it in the upcoming races to within a second and then we’ll see when we get the bigger upgrades also from the engine side.
Just talk us through the positives and the negatives of this car. What are you pleased with and where do you think there needs to be more work?
Do you have an hour? No, I think we can… yeah, we can just improve the general balance. I mean, I think in qualifying everything felt pretty good but it’s just we need more load. A bit more grip, we need more power. And it’s a bit of both – you try to make an efficient car on the straights to make up for the loss of power there. Now we just have to focus on, first, getting the car in the right window and then hopefully we get the right upgrades from the engine side as well.
A lot was made about the physicality of this new generation of cars, how did you find the opening race of the season in Melbourne, physically?Sebastian is travelling a second a lap faster every lap, so for sure it’s a bit more physical. But it was actually alright. I trained quite a bit more in the off-season period. For me it felt pretty similar to last year but I’m still getting older and stronger just by myself. It was alright. I didn’t have a drinks bottle as well, so it was all good.
Do you remember the first point you scored in Formula One and was it important for your career?
Yeah it’s not that long ago is it? It was alright. I think it was quite a good race…
Just remind everyone where that was?
Malaysia it was, 2015. There were quite a lot of issues at the end of the race, I remember, with the parts, but we managed to bring it home. So yeah, happy to finish in the points and it was just a good race and probably good for the future as well.
Max, you did a stunning wet race last year in Brazil, and considering the weather, it’s supposed to be raining on Sunday, so do you think you will be able to do that again?
To be honest, I don’t know. I think last year our package also in the dry was a bit better, a bit more competitive. Also, you need the grip from the car in the wet to do a good job. We’ll find out. It’s always nice to drive in the wet.
Earlier this year Jacques Villeneuve that said F1 had 'lost its way’ when it first started talking to fans and asking what they wanted, but we’ve seen with Liberty the new owners are very keen on fan engagement and we're seeing an increase in the number of fan surveys. To what extent do you think F1 needs to listen to the fans?
To be honest, I think it’s always good to get different opinions. It’s a good thing to also listen to fans, of course. I think one thing I miss a bit is of course the engine noise - I think when you were a little kid and you were standing next to the track it was something… even when they were not going 350km/h but going 310 or 320 it was still something magical when they passed, a Formula One car. And now we’re going really quick, but on the straights sometimes it doesn’t look as quick as a few years ago, when we still had the engine noise. That makes a big impression to the fans as well, and I think that there also needs to be a bit more action in terms of overtaking. As soon as you get that back into it, it doesn’t matter how fast the cars are around the lap. The engine noise takes over a lot more than having a car which is three seconds faster compared to last year.
You mentioned the lack of overtaking( in Melbourne). Was that a good indicator or will this be a whole, new story here in Shanghai?
I think in general in Melbourne it’s always a bit hard to overtake. It’s just the track, the nature of it. I think last year actually in China there was a lot of action so I expect that it’s a bit better to overtake here. I think it won’t be the same like last year because the cars are going faster through the corners and we have less tyre degradation. It will be a bit more difficult but I wouldn’t say it would be like Melbourne.