In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, the current championship leader explained how he is dealing with the fact that he is so close to winning his first world title, and why his approach to the sport in general is different to what many would expect from a high-profile F1 driver, in the midst of a fight against one of the sport all-time greats:
"Sometimes people take F1 too seriously, like it’s a life-or-death situation, thinking ‘If I don’t make it to Formula 1, my life is over,’ or something like that.
"For me, that was never the case and never will be. I’m very happy that I am in Formula 1 now, but even if I wasn’t, I would still do something else, racing-related stuff to have fun, to have a good time."
The fight for the title in 2021 is proving to be the most closely and hard fought since 2012, when then Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel beat the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso to the crown by just 3 points, at the final race of the season. Current Red Bull driver, Max Verstappen has just 5 races between himself and potential ultimate glory in the sport, but isn’t letting it get to him:
"I know that if my car is fast enough until the end of the season, I will win the championship, but if it’s not, then we probably won’t win it. At the end of the day, it’s not going to change my world.
"Of course, the goal, the dream is always to win the championship, but you need to have a bit of luck, you need to have the right car for it to be at the right time of the season or across the whole season."
The Dutchman suffered from poor luck a couple of times this season, notably his high-speed crash in Azerbaijan GP thanks to a tyre failure late on - which resulted in a DNF -, and the incident at the start of the Hungarian GP, in which he was an innocent victim of a multi-car crash and sustained significant damage to his RB16B, ultimately finishing the race a lowly 9th, with rival Hamilton in 2nd.
Disappointing to have two races in a row so much bad luck. I tried to make the best of it, but with our damaged car it was a very difficult race. We will bounce back after the summer break ⚔️ Thank you for your support, great to see the Orange Army out there again 🔸 #HungarianGP pic.twitter.com/7eS8nDxh6U— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) August 1, 2021
But the Red Bull driver relishes the challenge, and says that there is "no additional pressure" fighting a proven, seven-time champion for the title, and takes comfort from the fact he has a good equipment to show his talent and to do a good job during the races:
"I like what I’m doing in F1, and I always try to do the best I can, but there is no additional pressure. I would say if you have a good car, it even takes more pressure away.
"It means you can go into a weekend knowing you can have a good result. I think that makes me really calm."
Red Bull is in a fierce fight with Mercedes for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, and little details will make the difference in the end, according to Verstappen:
"It’s all about the little details that can make a big difference.
"It’s the general focus of everyone, pit stops, the setup work and preparation before you go into a weekend."
After winning the latest battle against Lewis Hamilton at the Austin last time out, Verstappen is closer than ever to the title, and to the realization of a childhood dream, in his own words:
"It’s a dream from when I was a little kid together with my dad, to get to Formula 1 in the first place and then trying to fight for a title.
"For sure, it would mean a lot if we can win it," he concluded.
The next instalment of the thrilling 2021 F1 championship is at Mexico, at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a venue in which Verstappen earned two victories in 2017 and in 2018, and had potential to win in 2019 if it wasn’t for a yellow flag infringement in qualifying. Hamilton also has two wins at the circuit, 2016 and 2019. Historically, the high-altitude of the Mexican circuit plays into the strengths of the Red Bull car.