Max Verstappen revealed the extent of the illness he endured in the build-up and during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, clearly far more than a case of ‘man-flu’ for Red Bull’s Formula 1 World Champion.
In the wake of it becoming known that Verstappen was unwell in Saudi, he failed to reveal the extent of his illness, which turned out to be severe and debilitating.
During today’s F1 drivers’ press conference, in Melbourne, ahead of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, the Dutch ace shed further light on his condition: “I refused to believe it myself for a long time. Because at home I was really ill like I could barely just walk around and I felt like I was missing a lung.
“I got to the weekend really believing that it was gone, because normally when you get sick, like, two or three days after you are normally alright, you can just do your workouts. But then when I jumped in the car in FP1… Even just one performance lap, I felt like I had to recover for two laps to be able to breathe normally.
“So yeah, it definitely did affect me throughout the weekend, which I didn’t like, because it was one of the first races where I Just felt like I was physically limited. And that’s really frustrating when you’re out in the car.
“Since then I’ve been trying to work on it, trying to improve it and I do think that it has improved a lot. So normally this weekend should be alright. I think it was just all coming together in Jeddah. It is quite a tough track in general and when you don’t feel well, it hits hard on you.
“But yeah, these things, unfortunately, happen, you know, that you catch a virus and stuff. So, yeah, hopefully, from now onwards, for the rest of the year, I should be okay.”
Max: Normally I wouldn’t want a three-week break this early in the F1 season but…
Looking to the forthcoming track action, notably, Red Bull have not had much success in Melbourne over the years, RBR tends to get their car into the sweetspot several races into a season, but not so of late, the double one-two in the season opener is evidence of that, which thrusts Verstappen into a now familiar role as favorite and man to beat Down Under.
As for his approach to the three-week break after Melbourne after, Verstappen said: “A couple of weeks ago, I would say that I was not looking forward to it. But then I got really ill and I’ve just been struggling a bit since that time, especially the last race out. For me now those three weeks are just getting back to, like, full fitness, getting a full program in.
“So, in a way, it’s probably nice now. Normally, if you just feel well, I think I would also prefer to keep racing [than take a break]. It has nothing to do with looking into the car, trying to make it faster. I think that’s a natural process,” added Verstappen, who leads the 2023 F1 drivers’ standings by a point from Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, ahead of Round 3 in Melbourne.
Verstappen has never won the Australian Grand Prix, and has only one Melbourne podium to his name. Odds are that will change as he is the outright favourite to win -sick or not – and anything less than his 37th Grand Prix win on Sunday will be a disappointment.