With 249 points, fourth place in the 2018 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship, two wins and 11 podium finishes – including five-in-a-row to close out the campaign which makers it Max Verstappen’s most successful season to date.
Here, Max looks back on his biggest moments of the year, reveals the key things he’ll take away from three seasons alongside Daniel Ricciardo and why he’s excited about what’s to come in 2019.
You had a really strong finish to the season. Are you confident that you will be able to carry that momentum forward into next year?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I think this season was a challenging one initially, but then it definitely came on and we had really great results, so I’m happy about that. Every year you depend a lot on the car you get, the package you get, and I’m confident that I can get good results again next year, but we just have to wait and see how good we’re going to be initially. I’m very confident that we can build a great car again and with our new partner Honda it’s definitely going to be very exciting.
The media suggested a couple of times this year that you changed your driving style or done something different over the course of the year. How do you respond to that?
MV: You always have to work on yourself. You can always improve and nobody is perfect. But you always talk to the people who really matter to you, the ones really close to you, so of course I talked a lot with my dad who really knows me. It’s not about changing a lot, just little details where you can improve. That’s what you are always trying to achieve and that’s what we did this year.
Do you think that’s been behind some of your success, particularly at the back end of this season: being able to reflect on performances?
MV: I think just general experience in life and racing helps you move forward.
Spain was a bit of a turning point for you this season. Would you pinpoint the podium finish there as the start of a new period for you?
MV: Spain was good, but then of course we had a little bit of a disappointing race weekend in Monaco, but yes, I already felt in Spain that it was going in the right direction. Definitely, after Monaco the result really started to come. The first six races were maybe a little bit more difficult than the others but I’m actually quite happy that it happened because things always happen for a reason.
We saw you make some clinical moves on track this season. Is there a particular overtake that was your favourite, one that stands out for you?
MV: I think any move where you have to out-brake someone from very far, stuff like that, but I think in general the race in Brazil was very cool, because I actually overtook two Ferraris and two Mercedes cars on track. That was definitely enjoyable.
Did the performance of the car in Brazil catch you surprise? I remember you were interviewed on the way to the grid and you said a podium would be good but you didn’t see to be really targeting a win.
MV: That race in general went much better than expected. It seemed like they were struggling a lot more than us, and our car was just great in the middle sector where all the corners are. It was just great to have to the feeling that you had the pace to go through the field.
What would you say was the most satisfying race for you? You had the two victories but were there any other races that stood out?
MV: Austria was a great win, but just the whole race there we had a good pace and we really maximised the result. Singapore was good. I had a few podiums, like in France, that was a good result and we had good pace overall, and I guess also Canada was a good one.
What about that USA?
MV: I forgot that one! Yeah, starting from the back to come through to the podium to finish second and still be fighting for the win. That was a good feeling.
You’ve had two-and-a-half years with that loud Australian next door, is there anything Daniel Ricciardo taught you on or off the track during the time you’ve been team-mates?
MV: What I think is really nice is that Daniel is in general always a very positive person. He’s always smiling and it’s a good atmosphere being around him. It’s better than having a grumpy teammate who doesn’t really speak to you. That’s maybe not a lesson, but just having a good atmosphere in the team is very important, so for sure I’ll take that onboard and will try to create that with Pierre [Gasly] as well.
What will you miss least – the singing or the farting?
You do have a new team-mate next year in Pierre Gasly. What’s your earliest memory of racing alongside him?
MV: It was my first international season in go-karting and I think it was Pierre’s second. We were racing against each other the whole season and we had a few good battles. At the time we were not talking a lot, I think Pierre was not that good at English and neither was I. You’re 12 years old, so it’s a bit different.
Then, throughout the years you always stay in contact; your paths cross again through the other series. Then he ended up in the Red Bull programme. He’s a very fast driver but also a very nice guy to be with and that’s important.
Looking ahead to next year, there are quite a lot of changes – new aero, new engine partner – and a lot of people are already talking up the Honda partnership, but do you need to get behind the wheel in testing before you set any real expectations?
MV: Absolutely. It all looks very promising but we have to wait until we go onto the track next year in Barcelona, so for me, at the moment, the most important thing is that I’m prepared and fit to drive the car once it’s ready.