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Max looks back on superior first half of the season: 'Many enjoyable moments'

Published on 30 July 2023 by Misha van der Kroon

Max Verstappen ruled in the Belgian Ardennes at the famous circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, where he raced from the sixth place on the grid to the victory, finishing 22 seconds ahead of his Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez, much to the delight of the Orange Army.

During his first pit stop, Max switched from the soft to the medium tyres. He says: “That was when the car was starting to come alive, and it was really enjoyable to drive. Once I got in the lead I could also really start looking after the tyres. On the soft tyres, the car was well balanced and, when you’re not in traffic, you could be a lot better on the tyres. It was again a great race.”

During the 44-lap race, it drizzled for a short while. Nobody switched to intermediates, but it was treacherously slippery, which Max also experienced. In Eau Rouge, he did have a fright when he had a big wobble, but he quickly corrected it and continued on his way. He explains: “It’s probably not the best place to go sideways, but luckily nothing happened. It caught me by surprise, it’s not a nice corner to have a moment. A swear word did pass through my mind. It was a bit more slippery than I thought it would be, and I quickly tried to correct it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily at that speed you have quite some downforce on the car which helps, but it was not a great moment.”

The conversations over the on-board radio between Max and his race-engineer Gianpiero Lambiase often get described as those of a married couple. How serious was it today, when it came to whether or not to push the tyres and go for another pit stop? “Probably fifty-fifty. I know that the team doesn’t like to do another stop, but I like to mention it so they might get a bit nervous,” Max laughs. “And then I like the response that we’re not doing it today. It’s fine, we know each other very well, and we have a very good relationship.”

He continues: “I think the relationship with your race engineer is very important. I find it always a very important part of your performance. Not only your race engineer, but everyone involved, like your performance engineer for example. Over the years you build up much more of a relationship, you get to know each other much better.”

 Max managed to win ten of the twelve Grand Prix run so far in 2023, of which he won eight in a row. These bizarre numbers show his dominance, but which of the victories did he enjoy most? “It’s difficult to choose, there have been a lot of nice ones. Some of them are more straightforward. I think one I actually really enjoyed was back in Miami. It’s a tough track, also to get through the field. But we managed that whole race quite well, after of course that tough qualifying. So yeah, for me that was a very enjoyable one. But honestly also today, and the last one in Hungary… there are a lot of nice ones, and a lot of enjoyable moments, so it’s difficult to choose.”

Going into the summer break, Max is leading the drivers Championship with a gap of 125 points. Wouldn’t he rather have continued racing and enjoyed the momentum? Max: “I don’t think it matters a lot, to be honest. I just want to have a nice time now and spend a bit of time with family and friends.”