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Rookie reflections - Q&A with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen

10 Aug 2015

As the youngest driver in F1 history, Max Verstappen’s debut season of Grand Prix racing was always going to come under intense scrutiny, but so far the Dutch teenager has revelled in the spotlight. Ten races into his career, we caught up with the Toro Rosso star to discuss everything from his father’s influence to his impending driving test…

Q: You seem to have taken to F1 racing really easily, but what has been the hardest thing to adjust to?

Max Verstappen: Just learning the car every race weekend. I don’t have a lot of experience of the tracks outside of Europe, so that’s also a big thing. The team helps you a lot. It’s just gaining experience - learning every phase of qualifying for example: how to get the maximum out of the tyres, how to set up the car from Q1 to Q2 to Q3.

Q: When you came into F1 racing many critics said you were too young. How do you feel now in terms of pressure and expectation?

MV: For me I don’t feel less or more pressure. To be honest I never really felt a lot of pressure, also at the start of the year. The first two races you take it a bit easier with overtaking - you want to finish races to get experience. When you get more confidence in the car you can do braver overtakes, and I think that’s getting better and better all the time.

Q: Does your father (106-race veteran Jos Verstappen) still give you lots of advice?

MV: He already gave me a lot of advice since I was very young. He’s here to give me some tips, and he’s always there to tell me ‘it’s a good day, but keep improving, keep working with the team.’ He knows how it works. He’s always there to stimulate me.

Q: You are now well into your maiden season. Do you still find F1 racing as exciting?

MV: Of course! This is where I always wanted to be.

Q: We ask because, as you are probably aware, there has been a lot of talk about improving F1 racing. As a young driver who has only recently come into the sport, do you feel it needs improving?

MV: I think it’s a bit the sound that needs improvement, and maybe a little more downforce.

Q: Why do you think the engine noise needs to be higher?

MV: Normally if you speak to people and say ‘F1’, it’s noise [that they mention]. Now we have F1 but with no noise. I think it’s just part of F1 - we should make the most noise of all cars, not GP2 cars.

Q: You seem to have a very good car this season, which may not have been expected…

MV: The car is very good, very enjoyable to drive. We are missing straight-line speed, but that’s how it is and we try to make the best of it.

Q: What do you think about the changes to the start procedure for Belgium? In terms of hearing less on team radio, would that be a concern for you?

MV: No not at all, it’s the same for everyone. You just have to deal with the rules. For me it’s okay.

Q: Speaking of starts, when you’re sitting on the grid waiting for the lights to go out, do you have a plan about what you’re going to do?

MV: No it’s always different, so you don’t really have a plan. I watch races from previous years, just to have an idea of where to go if this happens. In general you just hope to make a good start and from there on just anticipate what’s happening in front of you.

Q: How easy is it, the start procedure?

MV: It’s not easy at all - you have to find the right revs, you have to find the right pedal position and then you need to have a good reaction. Then after that you have to control the wheel spin, so it’s not that easy.

Q: When you entered F1 racing you didn’t have a road going driving license…

MV: I still don’t...

Q: …so what are your plans in that direction?

MV: When I turn 18 I will take my test. I have my theoretical exam, but I have to wait until I turn 18 to then do my practical. Will I do ok? I don’t know. Maybe I will be a bit too fast on the roads!

Q: And what about school (it’s a legal requirement to stay in school until 18 in the Netherlands)?

MV: That’s a bit of a difficult story. This was basically my last school year, but I think the opportunity you get to do F1 is only once, so you can always finish school later. Hopefully I never have to go back - I hated school!

Check back with Formula1.com later this week for an exclusive feature examining how Verstappen and his fellow 2015 rookies have performed in the first half of the season.