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Exclusive Max Verstappen Q&A: I’m living the dream

22 May 2015

Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen has already done much to impress this season, but he really grabbed the paddock’s attention on Thursday when he finished a close second to Lewis Hamilton in opening Monaco practice - on a circuit he’d never even driven before. Of course, with Renault’s reliability woes and the prospect of imminent engine penalties, Verstappen is also getting a schooling in the tougher side of F1 racing. Nevertheless, it seems the Dutchman couldn’t be happier to be here…

Q: Max, young people used to write diaries. If you were keeping a diary of your F1 experience, how would it start? Dear Diary…

Max Verstappen: Ha, I have no idea, because to be honest I hate books - especially diaries. I am not really into that. But let’s give it a try! Dear diary, I am very happy with how the season started… That would be basically it, because right now there is not much more to say. Yes, the races have been quite good so far - the ones that I was able to finish - but it was far from being perfect. There is still so much to learn: about strategies, how to approach a race - so diary, be patient!

Q: You must be satisfied with how well you have blended in with drivers so much older and more experienced than yourself. You are racing with all of them on the same level…

MV: No, not really, but I do my best - and that is also my aim here. You have to set your goals high. And, yes, right now I am quite close to where I wanted to be after the fifth race.

Q: You say you are quite close to where you wanted to be - where is that?

MV: Scoring points at every race. And that I have not managed.

Q: But that was not really down to you. Or where would you say that it was down to you?

MV: Hard to say. It is more of a gut feeling that you have when you get out of the car.

Q: What has been the best part so far of being an F1 driver?

MV: Driving the car. That is by far the best. Then spending time with the engineers and improving the car.

Q: In the past we’ve seen that if a driver shines here in Monaco then his career can get a significant boost, as more eyes will see this race than any other. So what’s your plan?

MV: Ha, qualifying on pole! (laughs) Hopefully we can have a qualifying like we had in Barcelona - that would be really cool.

Q: Were you surprised by how well you did on Thursday? Second in FP1 and fifth in FP2 on a track you’d never driven before…

MV: Yes, because towards the end of FP1 I had anticipated other people improving more. But many of them were also pushing hard, making mistakes and using the run-off areas. So ending in P2 was a huge surprise for me - a very welcome one! Then in the afternoon ending in P5 was a bit of confirmation that the morning session was not just a pipe dream. (laughs)

Q: Fernando Alonso said that here in Monaco the driver still can make a big difference. When you see what you achieved yesterday, that must be pretty flattering?

MV: Yes it is. And, yes, the engine is not such a big disadvantage here. Now it is all about analysing data for qualifying. I want to improve myself again - and, of course, impress.

Q: It’s the sixth race of the season on Sunday. Is there still a ‘wow factor’ that you are here - and doing so well?

MV: I honestly never thought about how it could be - it just happens. I thought to myself, ‘Well, this is now my F1 career - let’s see what happens’. I didn’t expect anything before - and it all came so fast. It’s maybe the benefit of being my age that you don’t chew things over and over in your head. You just do it. I am very relaxed.

Q: You and team mate Carlos Sainz get a lot of praise for your performances. Are you satisfied with yourself?

MV: So far, yes, I think I cannot complain. I am 17 years old and don’t have a lot of experience - and sometimes that is good as you cannot compare. So far I just can say that in all modesty I’m doing a good job.

Q: What was your best moment so far?

MV: I would say my race in China. I retired, but the race up until then was really good. And the opposite was probably the qualifying in Bahrain where I was really struggling with the balance of the car.

Q: How much frustration is there knowing that your season result could depend massively on the penalties you get for the number of engines you use?

MV: I am not frustrated - it’s a bit painful, but we have to deal with it. To be honest, whatever happens I cannot be frustrated as I am living my dream. I am in F1 - exactly where I wanted to be - already at a very young age! And maybe it all has a purpose. When you mostly have to start near the back your overtaking skills will get sharper!

Q: When you say you are living your dream, how difficult is it to keep your feet on the ground?

MV: I have my dad [ex-F1 racer Jos] to keep me grounded. (laughs)

Q: How would you characterise Monaco? Is it a track that you like?

MV: Hard to drive and easy to make mistakes. Concentration is what this track demands.

Q: Qualifying is a decisive factor here. What’s your plan for Saturday?

MV: P5 wouldn’t be too bad, would it?