Max Verstappen is “using his head more” in Formula 1 races, but still needs to “take risks” to be competitive, his father Jos has said. Red Bull driver Verstappen endured a tricky start to the 2018 season as he was involved in incidents in the first six Grands Prix of the season; the run culminating in a crash in final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix ruling him out of qualifying – where team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took pole and the win.
That spell came to an end in June’s Canadian Grand Prix, where Verstappen raced cleanly to third place in a run of three consecutive podium finishes, which included a win in Austria.
The Dutchman ended the season with a career best five podiums on the trot, including a comeback drive from 18th on the grid in the United States to second and victory in Mexico.
However, in Brazil he was leading the race after the pitstops, before Esteban Ocon tried to unlap himself in the Force India at Turn 2. The two made contact, allowing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to inherit the lead and leave Verstappen furious at the Frenchman’s actions. But despite that flashpoint, Verstappen Snr has noticed the change in mental approach from the 21-year-old.
“At the start of the season, everything was going south,” he admitted to Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport’s ‘Peptalk’ programme. “A few moves that [didn’t] stick the way he wanted [them] to, and the entire press corps trips over him.
“But then you see that he has learned a great deal, and that he has been performing super at almost every race. I notice that Max is using his head more during the race itself and that he is taking [fewer] risks.
Verstappen Snr, who himself raced in F1 between 1994 and 2001 suggested that the lack of “basic pace” in the Red Bull RB14 was a reason why his five-time grand prix winning son was forced into risky moves: “Regarding basic pace, we fall short,” he explained. “Then he needs to take risks at every race for a podium finish. That is recurring every race.”
“Max was forced to make a number of moves for him to be able to get third place,” remarked Verstappen. High engine temperatures early in the race left Verstappen Jnr mired in the midfield, leading to forceful moves on other cars to claim the podium finish, including a wheel-banging pass on Ocon at the Turn 7 hairpin.
"[Hamilton] drives a much faster cars and that makes it a bit more convenient if you are able to start from pole every race. You don’t need to take such risks
The Renault power unit used in the chassis was known to be lacking in outright top speed compared to the Mercedes and Ferrari units used by Red Bull’s main competitors, owing to delays and unreliability in the manufacturing process at Viry. The Milton Keynes-based team has instead opted to switch to Honda power for the 2019 season.