F1 Driver of the Year: Max Verstappen

I am sure just about every Formula 1 and/or motorsport outlet on the planet will vote Max Verstappen their driver of the year, he is without doubt our driver of the year and perhaps more deserving than any of the drivers we have picked since 2009.

Already last year the Dutch youngster took the sport by storm, this time around he tsunami-ed it when he was promoted from Toro Rosso to the Red Bull team and immediately won his first race with the team.

Since then he has captured headlinbes on just about every race weekend. He has injected excitement into every race as we know that Max will deliver 110% commitment whenever he goes toe-to-toe with anybody.

Sure he has made mistakes and rattled many cages, he even instigated the ‘Verstappen Rule’ for his robust defensive driving tactics. Love him or loathe him he is in Formula 1 to stay for a very long time, and we applaud the energy that he has injected into the sport and can already sense that he has forced all the front runners to raise their game.

When Max is around entertainment is guaranteed. he is the prodigy we have been waiting for since Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher departed the scene.

Here is the 2016 season in his own words:

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!

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.

Favourite race this season?
Spa. It was amazing. So many fans came over it was incredible.

Most proud of?
The victory in Barcelona.

One thing looking forward to next year?
The cornering speeds in the high-speed corners.

2016: In one word?

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.

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.

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.