No doubt about it, it’s been a year of massive achievement for Max Verstappen...
It was a season that started with the young Dutchman lining up on the grid for Toro Rosso, with the goal of boosting the junior squad as far up the standings as possible, but one that ended with the teenager taking his place at the top table of F1 drivers as a grand prix winner, the scorer of seven podium finishes and a front row starter for the first time. Now, with a landmark season behind, Max looks back and analyses what it all meant to him...
Firstly Max, how would summarise 2016?
Very positive – some special moments, especially with the victory of course, and then some great team results – the first and second in Malaysia was very special – so I can't complain about this season at all!
I can't complain about this season at all!
When you lined up for Toro Rosso in Australia, what were you goals at that point?
My goal was just to try to score as many points as possible in the beginning of the season, as we knew it was going to be harder at the end of the season because of the engine, which was not getting upgraded. It's a completely different approach to where I landed after the first four races. At the beginning you were fighting to get into Q3 and now it's like "OK, let's go into Q3 and let's see how we can secure the second row or something."
Obviously the big highlight was your win in Spain. At this point in time do you reflect on it, think about it. Was there ever time for it to sink in?
Yeah, it definitely sunk in, but to be honest I never look back too much. Of course it was a great moment and it's something very special to win for the first time. But then I quickly focused ahead again, to keep performing, that's the most important thing.
Quickfire questions on 2016:
- Favourite race this season? Spa. It was amazing. So many fans came over it was incredible.
- Most proud of? The victory in Barcelona.
- Fact about your team-mate you’ve learned this year? He farts quite a lot. I don’t care, but it really is a lot.
- One thing looking forward to next year? The cornering speeds in the high-speed corners.
- 2016: In one word? Good.
Taking you back to the start of that weekend in Spain, doing your first session, how little did you know then compared to what you know now?
I did know quite a few things but not of course how they all operated. I studied a lot on the simulator in the days before I got to Barcelona but still it's all new to you because you've never driven the car in real life. It was a big step. In FP1 I really had to get used to it in the first few laps, but from there on I just grew more comfortable. Of course I still didn't expect to do such a good job. It was a very special weekend in general.
It's a great relationship. I'm very happy with Daniel as a team-mate.
Was there any occasion when you pressed the wrong button?
I'm pretty sure I did! I'm sure there were a few times where I had to ask, "OK, where is that exactly?"
If you were to do that again now, with six months experience of the team and many more races under your belt, do you think you would be even quicker?
Oh, for sure, yeah, 100%, especially in practice and qualifying, it's a completely different build up.
When did you reach the point where you felt that you had caught up with the car?
I think you always learn but after a few races you start to go a little bit your own way, where you know exactly what you want more and more. But you're never really on top of the car because it's always developing. You keep getting new bits on the car and that influence the balance and maybe the set-up. It's something you grow into and it's always getting closer and closer.
Do records mean anything to you? You're holding the record for youngest race winner. Youngest pole sitter is likely to come.
It's nice but it's not something that has special meaning for me. As long as I win races and world championships that's the most important thing. It doesn't need to youngest or whatever.
Spain was the obvious highlight but what else stands out for you?
Silverstone, Austria, Malaysia was good. Japan was very positive. I've had a few good races that I really enjoyed and the wet race in Brazil obviously – a lot of positives.
You and Daniel seem to have pushed each other on. How big has that been for you, the relationship with Daniel?
It's a great relationship. I'm very happy with Daniel as a team-mate. He's very fast but also a great character as well. I just think it pushes the whole team forward and that's the main thing. Team spirit is very important. It's a team sport and when you work together on the car instead of trying to fight each it just benefits the team and it benefits you at the end of the day as well. You learn from each other and that's how you make the car better.
Monaco was not a great weekend...
There have been plenty of highs but inevitably a couple of lows as well. What were the weekends to forget?
Monaco. The rest were OK, but Monaco was not a great weekend. The speed was there but I crashed out in the wrong moments. But, you know, you even learn from that, even when it was a very negative weekend so there are always positives.
And what are your hopes for next year?
We are all very positive at the moment. We are getting close to Mercedes and hopefully with next year's cars we can make another step and hopefully we will be fighting for world championships.
Do you think the new regulations will mix the pack up a bit?
Hopefully for us we'll move forward. We'll have to wait and see. Like I said, we're all very confident, so hopefully next year we'll have a great car.
For you personally, will you have to demand more of yourself, especially physically?
It will definitely be more physical and that will be the most difficult part about it. To get used to the car will not be a big issue. You drive around it and you adapt to the situation as a racing driver, but definitely the fitness will be a lot harder. That's what I'll be working on during the winter time.
Have you thought about specific tracks or corners you're looking forward to in the new car?
Maybe Pouhon at Spa, the fast left-hander. I think other fast corners will be flat. Maybe Silverstone, Becketts and Maggotts will definitely be even more fun to drive next year. Mainly the fast corners are what I'm looking forward to.