Max Verstappen doesn’t care what his critics think; he will take the same single-minded ambition to defend his position at all costs because he is a racing driver.
With Formula One at a point where strict judgement is exercised over most events played out over a race weekend, the room for ‘racing incidents’ continually reduces. One such grey area is Max Verstappen’s defensive prowess; the young Dutchman has felt the scrutiny of his racing peers as well as the racing stewards.
Verstappen’s defensive maneuvering against Kimi in Hungary and Rosberg in Germany are stand-out moments that have caused other drivers to criticize his race-craft. Raikkonen stated that his movement was “not correct”, whilst Jenson Button voiced his concerns, adding that “I’m sure he understands a bit better now than he did before”.
The young Red Bull protege doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of his fellow drivers, and has assured himself as much as anyone else that he will take the same aggressive approach into this weekend’s race at Spa. He said,
“I always see it as a positive thing. If people are talking about you then you are doing something right. Of course, you always have people who criticize. Some people are for you, some people against.
But I just try to do the best possible job for the team because we are fighting with Ferrari. You don’t just allow somebody by. Of course, I am always on the limit, but that’s how you become successful, by being on the limit – because if you are under it then you will never achieve what you are capable of.
So for me, it [the criticism] doesn’t really change a lot. I will drive exactly the same as I have done before because there is nothing wrong with it.”
– Max Verstappen
Why should the 18-year-old dilute his own abilities on the basis of what other drivers are saying? His tenacity behind the wheel is refreshing, the risk he’s willing to take for himself as a driver when defending doesn’t concern an afterthought. Instead, it shows a driver who has the capacity to defend as creatively as he attacks.
“I just approach every weekend the same, just trying to do the best possible job, trying to set up the car as well as I can, drive as well as I can. Of course, it was a surprise to me to win my first race with a new team straight away, but from there on everything has gone pretty well.
“At Toro Rosso they were very professional, but being at Red Bull is another step up on a number of levels, so for myself I had to step up. It’s not the easiest thing jumping into a new team in the middle of a season, but so far everything has worked out quite well.
“I’ve been enjoying it, the pace is there, I’m having good results, and I’m definitely loving it out there right now.”
– Max Verstappen
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) August 16, 2016
Red Bull head to Spa knowing that their main rival will be Ferrari. If Verstappen is hunted by Scuderia as he winds through the Belgian trees, expect him to open the door for Vettel and Raikkonen so they commit their attack – just so he can see their offensive hand and slam the door shut again.