Perhaps because he is unused to it during the era of mighty Mercedes dominance, Max Verstappen does not like the ‘favourite’ tag his team have earned ahead of the 2021 Formula 1 season opener.
And he is adamant that he does not compare himself to the man he has to beat this year: Lewis Hamilton.
Nevertheless, the preseason F1 testing form-book indicates that Verstappen’s team have placed themselves as the benchmark for the opener at Sakhir, with Honda ramping up their final effort in the top flight in 2021 and a very handy plug-and-play RB16B,
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, Verstappen explained: “We race hard on the track but afterwards you can say the other person has done a good job. I don’t compare myself to Lewis.
“You have to look at yourself and do the best you can, learn from your mistakes, look at how you have driven and use that to your advantage.
“From my perspective, I feel ready, but don’t forget that Mercedes have 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 needed to change how I prepare this season. After so many years, it is easy to get your mind right — that’s where I am now.”
While reluctant to talk up his chances, the body language in the Red Bull camp is distinctly positive but the favourite-tag does not sit comfortably with the 23-year-old Dutchman
“It is what you do in the car and scoring points that count. There is no need to have these things… favourites for this or that. These are distractions but the car is in a better place than in previous years. It went quite smoothly in testing and is quite solid,” acknowledged Max.
Father Jos Verstappen continues to be a presence, his son revealing: “My father will come to some races but not all of them, just the ones he likes and which suit family commitments.”
Like Anthony Hamilton, Jos had a big role in his son’s career which he took on to be his life’s project, sacrificing his own racing to tend to Max’s karting career, which as a result was stellar and ultimately fast-tracked him to F1 when he came on to Red Bull’s radar.
Max continued: “Lewis’ dad helped him but he did not have the experience in racing my dad has. He always pushed me in the right direction. He made me understand every aspect of the job. He would open up the engine so I could see the mechanics of it.
“He would make me wash the go-kart, not just to clean it. It was so I could check to see if there was any damage or cracks. My dad was making me very aware of what was needed, and that helped me become the driver I am today,” added Verstappen.