Max Verstappen took pole position during the qualifying for the first race of the season in Bahrain, but in a thrilling race, he lost the victory to Lewis Hamilton due to Mercedes’ aggressive strategy call.
After this season opener, Verstappen spoke to Autosport magazine in an exclusive interview. He was open about his expectations on how his performance during this season would change due to the new situation at the front of the Formula 1 grid, where Red Bull getting a chance to battle Mercedes for the top spot.
"I think once you are in that position anyway, with having a car to fight for the title, everything becomes a lot easier," said Verstappen. "Of course, there's pressure to win a championship, because you're fighting other people.
"But, overall, I think it's a much better situation to be in, than always just not. Because then you have to take a lot more risks all the time to try and get a good result out of it. You have to risk it a bit more in lap one or a certain area in the race. And then of course, mistakes can happen.
Verstappen also said he was looking forward and hoping his car is in a position to fight for the world championship this year.
“That's I think where I am even better, because then it's a lot nicer and a lot easier to deal with."
Although he was successful in karting, his rapid rise through the single seater ranks to reach the “elite” Formula 1 with just 17 years of age in 2015, that meant he does not have a junior championship title in his hands.
But in the eyes of the Dutchman that is not a weakness in his flourishing F1 title campaign in the 2021 season, as he feels he can draw on the experience he acquired at the start of his motorsport career. He also explained that being in a title fight is very different.
"Of course, that scenario, you don't need to win every single battle or race. But that's a natural thing.
"It doesn't mean that [because] I didn't win a title, for example, that I don't understand that. Because I think I won many titles in go-karting and it's basically the same - you choose your battles.
"Also, I only had one attempt of winning a title in F3, and of course, yeah, it didn't happen." Talking about the year 2014, where he finished in 3rd place in the European Formula 3 championship, which was won by now Alpine driver Esteban Ocon.