Max Verstappen of Red Bull has stated that he wants to beat Lewis Hamilton’s crown of the world championship.
The Dutchman is the only man on the grid who can possibly do that in the season that starts this weekend here in Bahrain. He is fast and, if we are to believe the test times, so is the Red Bull he drives.
“Winning the World Cup – that was going to be a good year,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good races and wins, but that would be better than anything.”
At the age of 23, Max Verstappen starts his seventh season as a favorite for the world title
Verstappen is 23 years old and is surprisingly starting his seventh season in the sport.
He started at the age of 17 years and 166 days – before he was legally allowed to drive on the road in the Netherlands.
He has won 10 races and insists on his claim as the natural heir to Hamilton’s status as the leader in the sport.
Here in the heat of the Bahrain desert, Verstappen tried to downplay his chances on Thursday. He doesn’t welcome the term ‘favorite’ on his shoulders.
The Dutchman is the only man on the grid who can challenge Lewis Hamilton this season
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. ‘It’s about what you do in the car and score points. No need to have these things – favorites for this or that. These are distractions.
‘But the car is in a better place than in previous years. It went pretty smoothly during testing and is pretty solid. ‘
Yes, the most important thing is the relative speeds of the Red Bull and Mercedes machines.
Earlier this month, during three days of running on the same track where Sunday’s race takes place, Verstappen saw Verstappen the fastest time, while Hamilton spun twice in a skittish Mercedes that also suffered a gearbox malfunction.
Verstappen, who can be fiery and exuberant on the track, spent most of the winter training but allowed himself a short break in Brazil with new girlfriend Kelly Piquet, daughter of three-time world champion Nelson. Last season saw a certain warmth between Verstappen and Hamilton.
Red Bull outperformed Mercedes in pre-season testing in Bahrain earlier this month
“We race very fast on the track, but afterwards you can say that the other did well,” said the pretender to the throne.
‘But I don’t compare myself to Lewis. You have to look at yourself and do your best, learn from your mistakes, see how you drove and use that to your advantage.
‘From my perspective I feel ready, but don’t forget that Mercedes has won the last seven world championships, so they will be strong again. We have to be in our best shape to fight them.
‘Racing is not complicated. I haven’t had to change the way I prepare for this season. After so many years, it’s easy to get your head straight – here I am now. ‘
His father Jos, a contemporary of Michael Schumacher in a career spanning 107 races, is here in Bahrain. He cherished Max’s career, literally showing him the nuts and bolts he used to prepare his go-kart. Books, movies and music were barely recorded in an environment that promoted a total appreciation for racing.
Verstappen with girlfriend Kelly Piquet, daughter of three-time world champion Nelson
The young Verstappen duly announced his talent by winning 59 of his first 60 kart races, and failed to hit a 100 percent record just because his machines were packed. Max’s mother Sophie Kumpen was also a successful kart and won two Belgian championships.
“My dad will come to some races, but not all, just the ones he likes and that fit family obligations,” said Verstappen.
Lewis’s dad helped him, but he didn’t have the racing experience that my dad has. He always pushed me in the right direction. ‘
That once meant that Jos didn’t speak to his son for a week after ruining a race he expected to win easily by crashing after taking pole.
Verstappen added: ‘He made me understand every aspect of the track. He would open the engine so I could see the mechanics of it.
“He was going to let me wash the go-kart, not just to clean it. It was so that I could check for any damage or cracks.
“My dad made me very aware of what it took, and that helped me to become the driver I am today.”