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Max Verstappen Q&A: Fifth possible for Toro Rosso in 2015

27 Mar 2015

F1 racing’s youngest ever driver Max Verstappen was extremely unlucky not to score points in the Australian season opener, having run as high as sixth before mechanical troubles hit. But despite being only midway through his second race weekend, the Dutchman has already seen enough in the STR10 to convince him that Toro Rosso’s ambitious target of fifth in the 2015 constructors’ standings is achievable…

Q: Max, whatever kind of career you go on to have in F1 racing, it seems likely that you’ll always hold the record for being the youngest driver to start a Grand Prix. Now that you’re part of this year’s grid is that something you still think of?
Max Verstappen:
To be honest that doesn’t make a lot of difference to me…

Q: But it is a record that you hold right now…
MV:
Ha, but it’s not the record that I want to hold. Yes, it is nice as it shows that others believe in you despite my young age - that is a huge honour and in some ways I didn’t expect it at all to happen - but it is nothing that is on my mind all the time. I am not really focused on that too much. Now my focus is racing - and it is there that I want to deliver.

Q: Can you talk us through your first race? It started so promisingly, but ended with a DNF…
MV:
All in all it was a good weekend for us. The race pace we had on the mediums (tyres) was very good. And I was not nervous at all before the start! (laughs) I pushed a lot of buttons on the steering wheel and realised suddenly, ‘Hey, I am not nervous at all!’ Somehow that felt very funny as you fantasise about your first race, and it was all down to a normal race procedure - something that I’ve been used to since I was very young. There was no increase in heart rate, no grasping for air - just a normal race start of which I’ve done so many before.

Q: As a fellow rookie, your team mate Carlos (Sainz Junior) was in the same shoes as you in Melbourne. When he managed to finish the race in the points, was there any envy involved?
MV:
No, not at all. I had a little issue and without that I think I could have finished in P6 or P7. So it was down to a technical thing - and not down to me - so I can live with that. And yes, Carlos delivered a good result - congratulations.

Q: For most normal teenagers, being 17 means a first taste of adulthood, but you are already living the life of a grown-up - a full-blown professional. Do you feel you are missing out on anything? Hanging out with friends, for example…
MV:
I have to be a full-blown professional, otherwise I wouldn’t survive here. But it was always my goal to be here, so I would not want to be anywhere else or doing anything else. This is the life I have chosen. That might sound a bit like an old head on young shoulders, but this is the path I want to follow.

Q: When did you experience your steepest learning curve? In F1 racing or in another series?
MV:
Oh yes, I do remember very well. It was at the end of 2012 and I could have won the world championship in go-karting, but I made a mistake and crashed out. The title was there for grabs and I let it slip away. In that very last race I had been four-tenths faster than anyone else all weekend, so it was a very painful experience. I tried to overtake on the second of 22 laps at a spot where you shouldn’t - I was simply too greedy - and that experience sticks. My dad was very angry with me. He didn’t speak to me for a week. I then spent the whole winter trying to improve myself. The year after I won every championship I competed in. It was then and there that I understood that a small mistake can make all the difference - and can very easily decide success or failure.

Q: Some people have nicknamed Franz Tost ‘kindergarten cop’ this year. How much ‘cop’ have you already discovered? He is known to work his rookies hard…
MV:
No cop at all. He is always there to give advice. Of course he tells you if you do a bad job - but in a nice way. I wonder where this cop thing is coming from! (laughs) He always gives you the impression that you’re part of the Toro Rosso family.

Q: 2015 is Toro Rosso’s tenth season in Formula One racing, so it would be natural if expectations were higher than usual. But how high are they? Things looked pretty promising in Melbourne…
MV:
We have the objective of finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship. That’s what we’re going for - and that means that we have to score points. I think the car is capable of doing it - so it is up to us to pull it off!

Q: The STR10 seems to be on a pretty similar level to the Red Bull RB11, although there’s a suggestion that the Renault power unit works better in your car. Is that so?
MV:
I don’t know anything about how it works at Red Bull - I just can say that our car feels very right. Toro Rosso has built a very good car.

Q: Malaysia is a tough race due to the hot and humid conditions and the possibility of rain. But obviously you feel happy as a pig in muck here…
MV:
Yes, you could put it that way. (laughs) It was not so bad to finish both practice sessions among the ten fastest cars. It is not so easy on the tyres I have to admit, but we’ve managed to handle that. For the second session we did some changes to the set-up and I was very happy with the balance of the car. There is always room to improve, but for the moment it is really going quite well. Let’s see where that positive feeling brings us tomorrow in qualifying. And for Sunday the plan is to finish - finish in the points! Never forget: the objective is finishing P5 in the constructors’ standings!