Reporter Formula 1
Reporter Formula 1
The badly battered floor of his RB18 has been repaired and the damper of the disappointing Silverstone result (seventh) has been dealt with. Max Verstappen wants to be in an Austrian orange sea on the Red Bull Ring pick up the winning thread again with tens of thousands of Dutch fans.
The statistics speak in Verstappen’s favour. He has not collected more World Cup points on any Formula 1 circuit. The 24-year-old Dutchman has no lack of confidence. “In terms of top speed, we are the fastest. Ferrari and Mercedes are very good in the fast corners, but the fact that Sergio Perez was second after a catch-up race at Silverstone shows how good our car is. We are doing quite well this year.”
It has become a common sight: the Austrian region of Styria is teeming with red, white and blue flags and yellow license plates. At least 50,000 Dutch people turn the wide area of the hamlet of Spielberg bei Knittelfeld into a glorified home race for Verstappen. “It’s great how that has grown in recent years.”
“People clearly love this event. Hopefully they will also add a few vacation days to it,” says Verstappen. He realizes that the growth of the stands will eventually stop. “Someday the limit will be reached. The numbers will probably go down again.”
“It’s always nice to be here and the atmosphere is of course great. I also think it’s a really nice track. Although there are few corners, it is a challenging, interesting and technical track. It often results in fun races,” says Verstappen at his employer’s home base. “There are a lot of good memories here and good results. Even in seasons where we had a less competitive car and Mercedes dominated.”
Verstappen’s Spielberg stats are simply impressive. The reigning champion drove nine races on the Bulls’ home asphalt. Four times he won the grand prix, six times he drove to the podium. He collected 139 World Cup points over the years.
Verstappen can take a big step towards title prolongation in Austria. Instead of the usual 26, there are 34 points to be earned this weekend: eight for a sprint race win (Saturday), 25 for the GP win and one for the fastest lap. That mission is not impossible. Earlier this year, Verstappen garnered the maximum score during a similar race weekend in Imola, Italy.
The British grand prix that went so disappointing for him is now a thing of the past for Verstappen. “It was a tough Sunday, but those things can happen. I scored quite a few points with a damaged car, but of course it could have been a lot more,” he looks back on the race he lost due to a wreckage of Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri.
The incident cost Verstappen the lead in the race and robbed him of the win. “First I thought about a flat tire, then a broken suspension. I bounced, slid and tried to balance, but there was almost nothing to do with it. Basically the car was just uncontrollable.”
Sneer from Hamilton
The British grand prix was won by Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), but especially the fierce battle for second place got the public on the benches. Verstappen’s teammate Pérez, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) made a spectacle of the final phase.
Hamilton handed out a villainous compliment to Leclerc afterwards. “Charles did a great job. It was a fantastic duel. He is clearly a very sensible driver. The two of us went through the Copse corner without any problems. Very different from what I experienced last year.”
Hamilton’s words of praise for Leclerc were mainly a packaged sneer towards Max Verstappen. The seven-time champion won the British grand prix last year after knocking out his rival in Copse with an intentional or unintentional touch.
In Austria, Verstappen bounces the ball back. “I think it’s great that at 37 you suddenly understand how to approach a corner. Lewis is apparently still learning. That is positive, also for younger drivers.”
Verstappen has extensively viewed the images of the fierce duel between Leclerc and Hamilton. “You can clearly see that Charles gives Lewis even less space than I gave him last year. That says enough. Moreover, Hamilton was penalized in 2021, so we don’t have to talk about that anymore. I think it’s a bit rude that he behaves himself.” behaves like that, but I don’t worry about it.”