Max Verstappen, since his debut in 2015 with Toro Rosso, but especially since his arrival at Red Bull Racing in 2016 became one of the most known names in the sport, and regularly the only threat to Lewis Hamilton on track. Verstappen, currently only 23 years old is approaching his 7th season in Formula 1. Just before he headed to Bahrain, he gave an interview to the Dutch De Telegraaf, where he touched upon the current state of the sport and what he thinks of it, as well as a little bit of it’s the past.
With his many years in the bag as an F1 driver, Verstappen believes that the biggest issue with the sport currently is the lack of overtaking. This problem has been raised by many, not only racing drivers but others in the paddock as well as the viewers. As he said himself: "The cars are just too wide now, and as a result, you cannot drive other racing line when you are behind someone else.”
It is not only an issue with the width of the cars, but also the downforce and balance you often loose when driving behind another driver. As he said: “You cannot really follow at all and you have no balance in the car. I recently came across a video from the 2016 season on YouTube. I was amazed how much racing there was in that year. I couldn't remember that at all. Then the cars were also a lot narrower.”
He continued: “Making the cars wider has not been good when it comes to the racing aspect. Well for the pure driving feeling, we now have a lot more grip. But what is more important? Haha, for me as a driver the more important thing is what it feels like (in the car), but for the fans of course the racing aspect. ”
With the change in the regulations from 2022, there is a lot of hope that they will improve the racing aspect on track. Verstappen remains positive, although to him the issue still lays in the design (mainly the width) of the cars. As he said: “The best teams always have the smartest people. They always come up with something, which gives them an advantage over the rest of the grid. Then it will take a few more years before the other teams could get closer. That is also the problem. If you stick to rules for a long time at a certain point, teams will automatically get closer together. But of course that never happens if you change it every four or five years. I think the sport is still a bit searching in that regard. If everything goes well and there are many manufacturers interested, you can keep everything the same and you don't have to adjust very big things. We're going a lot slower in those new cars next year, but I think the problem is still the width of it. ”
When asked what is preventing new manufacturers from entering the sport and expanding the grid, the young Dutchman believes it the complexity of the sporting rules as well as the sheer price of entering. As he said: “Now it is indeed much too complicated and others do not want to get in. It is also way overpriced. They hope to reduce that in the future. ”
Verstappen definitely enjoys on track overtaking and action, although he “wouldn’t mind to drive only towards the victory”. When asked, he responded: “If it is difficult to overtake, you know that you are a bit stuck during those races. Then you have to try it in a different way. So you thing more strategic. Trying to overtake someone with (for example) a well thought out pit stop. In 2016 you could really overtake someone on the track. Sometimes you still can, but it has become a lot more difficult. ”
In that interview, Verstappen also gave an insight into his preference when it comes to the past F1 cars. As he said: “I really liked the cars from 2004 to 2008. My favourites are those from 2006 and 2007. Not a team in particular, but in general those cars looked really good. They were a lot smaller, narrower and lighter than now. That helps enormously, because there was a lot more action on the track. ”
It is a really interesting insight into the mind of such a young, yet well established name in F1. Will the 2022 regulations indeed will help with providing more on-track action? Will the sport eventually become more accessible for new manufacturers to enter? Well, before we get to know this, there’s an entire exciting 2021 ahead of us, and it starts this upcoming weekend in Bahrain.