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Exclusive Max Verstappen Q&A: Spain win a relief for Dr Marko

25 May 2016

The past few weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind for F1’s newest - and youngest ever - race winner, Max Verstappen. On the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix - just his second event for Red Bull - we caught up with the teenage Dutchman to reflect on his victory, including just what it meant to the man who took the surprise decision to promote him - Dr Helmut Marko…

Q: Max, have you now digested the fact that you once again re-wrote F1 history with your win in Spain?

Max Verstappen: Ha, it was probably more exciting from the outside. Yes, it’s a bit of a special feeling but in the end I don’t follow and count records. I just want to win. Period!

Q: There are two other drivers on the grid who previously held the ‘youngest ever’ attribute: Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel - and both became world champions. Is that also your given destiny?

MV: I wish that’s my destiny. At least I try to! (laughs) I always wanted to be in Formula One, to win races and championships - nothing else. I’ve won one race now - so let’s hope that it is the start of a long series!

Q: How did you learn that you would take Daniil Kvyat’s seat at Red Bull? Did you expect that something like that could happen during the season?

MV: Well, you never can expect such a chance! Not at that time of the year. Dr Helmut Marko [Red Bull motorsport consultant] called me after Russia and we met in Graz - and then everything got cemented into a contract! I know speaking it out it sounds pretty unimpressive, but it I knew what big chance was attached to it!

Q: Helmut is a pretty tough task master when it comes to his drivers and you must have been aware that there was another party who also got a call from him with much less happy news. Was that on your mind?

MV: Well, you always have that! That’s life - and more precise: that’s Formula One. I wouldn’t say that Helmut is tough - he is straight forward - and that’s where we match. And that’s what he also likes in me - I guess.  

Q: How did you learn to be so unfazed about all the things that go on around you? Stress and excitement seem to glance off your personality - and all at an age of eighteen…

MV: All I can say is: I am just myself. That’s how I grew up. I haven’t really taken the time to analyse myself! (laughs) Too many things have happened lately….

Q: Don’t you sometimes have the feeling that everything has come too fast - that the expectation level will again raise a notch and you have to cope with it?

MV: As I said I am not thinking too much about it. I just do it. And lucky me: it has always been very positive for me.

Q: Being unconcerned is a privilege of youth. One day you might sit down and think - and it is then when many successful youngsters fall into a black hole…

MV: …then it kicks in again: don’t think too much. (laughs) Just do your thing!  

Q: You have won many races before - otherwise you wouldn’t be here. What makes that F1 win so special?

MV: Because it’s your dream! Something that I wanted as long as I can remember!

Q: Does it make it more special that you kept two former world champions behind you - Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel?

MV: Ha! Probably that was a bit the icing on the cake! But in the end you don’t care who is behind you - as long as they are behind you!

Q: Helmut was on the podium with you - something he hasn’t done in years…

MV: Yep, I think it was a big relief for him, too - to show everybody that it was the right decision [to switch drivers]. So my guess is that he was very happy. He has taken quite a risk - and it paid off - for both of us!

Q: You’ve won with Kvyat’s car. That must be pretty tough for him. Have there been big changes from Russia to Spain to explain that?

MV: Not really big changes. And again: What happened happened! I trust we both tried to deliver the best possible result with the cars that we had.

Q: Aren’t you also living your dad’s dream?  He was in F1 for many years, mostly driving inferior cars and never really breaking through - and there you come - and win with a not so competitive car…

MV: Well, we sometimes talk about it. I think that the potential of my dad didn’t come out fully - for many reasons. To start with he was teamed against a world champion - Michael Schumacher - and that is not easy. And aside from that things happened that didn’t help his career. So yes, he has some unfinished business in F1 - so in Spain all his hard work paid off…

Q: …so you finish his unfinished F1 business?

MV: Yes, that’s how I see it as well! (laughs) 

Q: Red Bull obviously also raised your salary significantly…

MV: All I can say: I am not getting poorer… (laughs)

Q: Monaco should also be a Red Bull track - but it is a track where experience can help a lot. Are you ready to tip the scale with youthful bravado - and bring the car home?

MV: Well, I think the package is very strong here. I had a good feeling so far - given the fact that it will only be my second race in the RB11. I am a realist: Mercedes will be very strong again - no matter if it is an engine driven track or not. A podium would be very cool here - winning of course even cooler!  But to be honest: when in ten years’ time - and after winning a couple of world championships - I have never won Monaco then I would say: I don’t care! (laughs)