Yesterday in Silverstone RedBull had the chance to run their new RB16B for the very first time. It was a filming day, so drivers could only complete 100km and use demonstration compound tyres, meaning they weren't able to get a proper feeling of the car.
“We drive on demo tyres so it will never feel how it’s going to feel on real tyres,” Verstappen told the media.
“I never really base a lot of my findings on this small run. You just get the car out and run a few laps.”
“It all felt a bit normal to me. I think we just have to wait and see what’s happening in Bahrain once we have proper tyres under the car.”
The cost cap is forcing teams to limit development, hence the RB16B won't be so different from last year’s car.
“It’s a bit of a carry-over from last year for all teams,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a completely different car anyway.”
“As long as it’s fast that’s the most important, even if it would look pink, purple or any other colour or shape that doesn’t matter. Even if it has the weirdest shape on the car possible, and it’s fast, I’m happy with that.”
The only major change will concern the floor and Verstappen is eager to find out whether RedBull will manage to reduce the gap from Mercedes.
“To try to recover all that downforce loss is going to be important and is going be to be interesting to see who did that the best.”
“At the moment I don’t know, of course, where we are. But there’s still a few things we have to be on top of. Mercedes was still the dominant car towards the end of the season so we know we have to keep improving.”
A domination that wasn’t affected, despite the efforts from the Milton Keynes team.
“At the end of the season, Mercedes, of course, stopped developing that car from whenever – June, July – because you couldn’t really see a lot of updates. We just kept learning. We know we had a few issues with that car and we wanted to improve it.”
Last season the car was lacking grip in general and not just the rear, Verstappen confessed.
“People always talked about the rear end being so twitchy,” he added. “I think it’s just general grip that we were still lacking a bit.”
“I just wanted more grip. It didn’t mean that it was very tricky to drive because you adapt to the situation you’re in.”
“The car is always on the edge,”
“A fast car is never super-easy to drive. If it becomes super-easy to drive, most of the time it’s too understeery anyway.”
They also suffered some power unit issues, like the one that forced him to retire in Monza putting an end to a string of five consecutive podiums.
“But then also we were a bit down on power. We know that, that is no secret, you can see it. So we worked a lot with Honda of course, also throughout the winter.”
With Honda exiting F1 as a power unit manufacturer, the British team has announced it's going to produce its own engine with the launch of Red Bull Powertrains.
Verstappen believes that for him it “doesn’t change anything.”
“I mean, it’s exciting, but at the same time I’m also not too focused on that at the moment,”
He is trusting the team on that.
“We are living in the moment trying to have a good season, first of all, this year. The smart people in the background who will handle those kind of things with the engine.”
“It’s of course very important in that it happened, that it was signed off,” “But that’s it.”
“I’m very relaxed, very calm. I just want to focus on this year, that’s for me more important. It’s nice of course to have that in the background but that’s sorted.”
The 23-year-old is very keen on focusing on the upcoming season, his 6th with Red Bull.
“Let’s see this year if we improved it even more and even better and hopefully it’s more competitive compared to Mercedes.”
“It’s all looking promising but it doesn’t make sense now to hype everything up. First it’s more important to get to the track in Bahrain and try to do the best amount of learning we can on the car and the engine to optimise everything.”
There is no denying that the gap between the two teams is still quite big and with Lewis Hamilton renewing his Mercedes contract for only another year, speculations on whether it will be Verstappen taking the standing world champion's seat have been around for a while.
But when asked about it the Dutch just shrugged it off.
“At the end of the day I don’t know, of course, what Lewis is going to do,” “I just focus on myself.”
“I’m very focussed on this year and trying to make it a success. So early in the season, with only a basically a shakedown, those kind of things I’m not really thinking about at this stage.”