Return of the Max

It’s ten in the morning, Max is furiously shovelling down a super-healthy racing driver-style breakfast of some avocado, a bit more avocado and a substance that looks like a cross between quinoa and sawdust. It’s a lean time to be an F1 driver as they prep for what might be the most physically demanding F1 season of their career to date. Max, though, is more than up for the challenge. In fact, as he prepares for his first full pre-season with the team, he’s raring to go…

Max, welcome back. The off-season is coming to a close. How good is it to be back with the team and getting ready for 2017?
I'm very happy to be back. I've been busy with training since the beginning of the year, getting myself ready, and waiting for the car to be ready and then we'll get back on track, so looking forward to it.

Big changes coming this year, how much are you itching to get your hands on the RB13?
I've driven it on the simulator already and the cornering speeds are quite impressive. Of course you'd like to experience it in real life and luckily that time isn't far away. I just can't wait to get started again, to see all the team members, to get practicing and then eventually to go racing.

Can you explain a few of the major rule changes coming our way?
Yeah, we've got wider tyres, so also a wider base of the car, a bigger floor, which together with the larger wings creates more downforce. It will be very interesting. Of course the car gets a little heavier but I don't think that will be a massive issue. At some tracks we could be going three seconds faster per lap – that's a lot!

There's been a lot of talk about the effect the changes will have on the drivers, physically. How have you tailored your pre-season training for this season?
You basically do the same things as last year but longer and more, so a bit more weights etc. It will definitely be a challenge for us, but that's part of the job.

I've been busy with training, getting myself ready, so looking forward to it.

You mentioned driving the new car in the simulator. How close to reality is that compared to what you will experience in testing in a couple of weeks' time?
The simulator at Red Bull is very professional. The only thing you are missing is the G-forces, but that's very difficult to recreate in the simulator, everything else is there, so it's a very good test for us.

How important is the real thing then. What's the value of testing?
It's very important for the team but also for the drivers, because you don't have that many days before the first race, so you try to feel comfortable in the car; that the seat is fine, the pedals, steering wheel, that you don't get any cramp in your body. From there, it's just very important for the team to set up the car for the first race, to try to get a good balance. You try to improve the car day by day and then hopefully you're in good shape for the first race.

It's your first full pre-season testing programme with the team. Are you looking forward to a bit more time to get used to this car than you had in Spain with the RB12?
For sure it's better preparation. As I said before, with the steering wheel, pedals and the seating position you have a bit more time to work on it. It's definitely a more optimal preparation for me and then with the new car and quite a drastic change I think it's very important to have this pre-season testing.

What do you envisage will happen in Australia at the first race? Are you expecting a mix-up in the order, any different challenges going into the first corner?
Hopefully we will be first into the first corner and from there on we just keep the lead. At the moment I don't think about it too much. I first want to focus on testing and we'll see where we end up in the order when we get to Australia.

What are your goals for the coming season?
I first want to wait and see how good the car is and then I can set my goals. I stay pretty neutral and I'll just wait and see what happens.