Max Verstappen says ‘it makes no difference’ to be F1 championship lead


While the chance to fulfill his childhood dream of winning a world title is a real possibility this season, Verstappen is taking it all in his stride.

There’s a certain pressure that comes with being the championship leader, especially when you have seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton around your neck, but it’s not a pressure that Verstappen seems to be feeling.

“To be honest, it doesn’t make any difference,” the Red Bull driver neutrally told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies. “We’ve always wanted to be here and now that we have a very competitive package we’re just very happy that it’s happening and now we just have to keep going.

“I mean, it’s still a very long season, we’re not even halfway there. Of course the gap right now looks nice, probably on paper, but it also goes away very easily. We have to. so just make sure we don’t make mistakes and stay on top.

“I never really watch these things. At the end of the day, they don’t really make a big difference in terms of how I feel about it.”

LILY: Max Verstappen takes third consecutive GP victory at Austrian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen celebrates his victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Still only 23 years old, it’s a testament to Verstappen’s mental toughness that he’s been able to win each of the last three races after his Azerbaijani Grand Prix mishap, which saw him slip down the main straight. due to tire failure just five laps from the end.

It was a pretty brilliant race at the Monaco Grand Prix in May that saw Verstappen take the lead in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time and his performance has only improved since then, allowing him to widen a 32-point lead. on Hamilton.

But as Azerbaijan undoubtedly taught him, all that hard work could be undone in an instant.

“To be honest, I’m not enjoying it right now, any more than I would in the last few years,” Verstappen said. “Because I know that doesn’t say anything right now.

“I want to be there in the last race and finish it that way, because of course you can be happy right now, but if you lose at the end of the year, then that’s fine. be happy.

“That’s why I’m pretty neutral in everything and just really focused on what to do.”

No one has ever doubted Verstappen’s championship titles as a driver. So far in his six year career, the common consensus has been that it was the Red Bull car that let him down.

This season, however, that seems to have changed.

Red Bull, led by team principal Christian Horner, made some dramatic improvements to last year’s car and ultimately provided Verstappen with a vehicle capable of challenging Hamilton and Mercedes.

Verstappen believes that the team’s dominance on tracks where they have generally not performed well in the past – France, for example, where the Dutch driver this season has taken pole and race victory – will be very much to them. useful for the next Grand British Grand Prix, where Hamilton and Mercedes have dominated in recent years.

“The team, including Christian, are focused on giving me this car, which they gave me this year and now we are working really well together,” said Verstappen.

“I think we’ve really taken a good step forward compared to last year and now it’s time to continue [and] is improving, because we can’t just rely on what we have now until the end of the season. We just have to keep trying to be better.

“You also have to be positive, but we know that they [Mercedes] it will be very strong there [Silverstone], they are making improvements, so it won’t be easy. I have no doubts that we can do a good job here as well. “

This weekend’s British GP will be the first of three races this season to feature a whole new qualifying format.

The usual hour-long qualifying session will still be on the schedule, but it will only decide the starting positions for the sprint qualifying session, rather than the race itself.

Max Verstappen kicks his tire after crashing in Azerbaijan.

It will be this new sprint qualifying session, a 100-kilometer, 17-lap race, that will decide how the drivers line up for Sunday’s grand prix.

Points that count towards the Drivers’ Championship total will also be awarded to the top three drivers in the sprint qualifying, with three for first place, two for second and one for third.

“I’m actually quite open-minded,” Verstappen says of the new format. “I’m not against it, I’m not for the moment. I just want to see how it plays out. It’s very new.

“Of course that will be a bit of an adjustment to be made in terms of approaching the whole weekend. But I guess time will tell, we’ll just see how it goes.

“It’s hard to say now [if it will impact the race]. After FP1 [first practice], you make your changes for qualifying and you can’t really tune the car anymore, so you hope to make the right changes.

“So you will find out a little bit during the sprint race or the qualifying race if it’s good or not – and if it’s not good then you are in trouble.”

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