After securing the 2021 Drivers’ Championship in controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last December, reigning World Champion Max Verstappen is keen to avoid a heavy workload off track as he bids to defend his crown in 2022.
While COVID restrictions have eased in the paddock this year – giving fans and people in the paddock closer access to drivers – Verstappen said he is there to focus on his job of driving his car as fast as possible.
He thinks the best way to entertain the fans is by thrilling them with his performances on circuit.
“Even if there is no COVID for sure I’m not going to do more … on weekends because I’m there to race, I’m not there to entertain the crowds,” the 24-year-old stated.
“I’ll entertain them by doing that on the track. Otherwise you get upset, you don’t feel good and it’s going to hurt your performance.
“So you need to just keep it exactly the same, the same approach as other race weekends.”
Continuing on from his initial point, the Dutchman used former teammate Daniel Ricciardo as an example of a driver who couldn’t enjoy his home race due to all the various activities he had to do.
Ricciardo admitted as such after the 2019 race and hoped to seek a better balance when they returned to Australia.
Due to the pandemic, 2022 will be the first race held at Albert Park since 2019.
"I'm just drained, Ricciardo said post-race in 2019. "I just try to please everyone this week and don't look after myself.
“It’s tough. I feel like the whole week we’re… this week is a tough one.”
“We’re always pushing uphill. You can never do enough, but I feel we do more than enough.
“I don’t want to blame that, but I certainly didn’t… I don’t know, I feel flat for more reason than one.”
Getting back to Verstappen and his point about Ricciardo, he said: “I always felt sorry for him because he was always so busy.”
“He actually never really got to fully enjoy it. Maybe he manages it differently now but I remember when he was here it was tough, he was super busy in the week leading up to the Grand Prix.
“So I hope for him that at least he can enjoy it a bit more now because I think it is very special to have a home Grand Prix.”
Verstappen is adamant that drivers should be able to say no to certain events.
He also believes having the right team around a driver is important to manage such things.
“You need the right people around you as well to manage you in that,” the World Champion added.
“Of course at one point as a driver you know what you need to feel good in the car and you really know how many commitments you can do on a weekend.
“But you should be able to say ‘no’ to certain commitments. At the end of the day you are here to drive and to race because that’s what you live for and what you get paid to do.”