Formula 1 prepares to kick off the action in Zandvoort at round 15 of the year and, as the home hero, Max Verstappen, prepares to race on home soil. The 24-years-old faced MotorLat and other media at the on-track press conference this Thursday.
“It's definitely really nice to see all the time when you are even in the box, to be honest. You see the people in front of you, they're having a bit of a party going on. And when you drive out as well, you know, they're cheering for you and I'm just going to try and enjoy it as much as I can.”
Thinking of how the RB18 has developed throughout the year, Verstappen admits that the fact that Red Bull’s 2022 challenger has become lighter has helped his understanding and driving on the season.
“Well, I think we started the year with a very fat car. I mean, it was a bit overweight. That doesn't help. So, we’re slowly starting to get rid of that. And yeah, just general understanding with these new rules as well. And probably just finding also a better set-up on the car, from the first race to now.”
“I think you can see that the car has changed a little bit over time, as everything went into a good direction. And I mean, Spa, yes, it was just a really, really good weekend, like from the first lap the car was on rails.” He said.
I think that's the first time in like five years around Spa, where we could actually run our normal downforce, like the last few years always we had to run a bit skinnier – and that doesn't make it great in Sector Two. And now, I think everything just felt really well balanced. So that makes it really enjoyable to drive. And Hungary… Hungary for me, it was all a bit closer. We were not particularly great on Friday, then we made a few changes and the car was in a better window – but still, it was a close fight for pole, and in the race was basically just being patient and just applying the right strategy to get through the field but I don't really think that we had a massive pace advantage compared to what we had in Spa.”
About the understeering around Zandvoort that the World Champion could face this year considering some front-end issues, he responded: “I think it’s just a thing with the way the tyres are working at the moment.”
“There is a bit of a general understeer in the car, which you just have to get used to. And I think over time, it gets better and better. But yeah, for sure, this track, with of course, completely different tyres, with all the high-speed cornering, they get very hot around here. So you lose a bit of grip over the lap, and I expect it to be the same also this year.”
Heading into the second half of the season, the World Champion was asked about the car’s differences from the 2022 regulation changes brought in this year’s cars, assuring he prefers last year's car, based on pure lap pace.
“I think from pure feeling and sensation, I prefer last year's car. But I have to say, I think it has mainly to do also with the weight increase of the car. In the low speed, it's a bit more of a struggle. So, because you have to run the car really stiff, compared to last year. But the high-speed is nice with the new cars. I think they're quite stable there. So, it has a few positives.”
Finally, when asked if the extended DRS through the final corner will make a difference, the Dutchman said: “I hope for once I don't need to overtake that much compared to the last few races! So, let's see. I mean, for sure will be better. And yeah, it'll be interesting to see how the DRS is going to behave through the banking – but I don't expect it to be an issue.”