[Verstappen: Baku set-up breakthrough led to current F1 dominance
The championship leader, who extended his points advantage to 138 points following his Dutch Grand Prix victory, won the season opener in Bahrain as he sought to successfully defend his title once more.
But he traded blows with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in the opening four races of the season, as the Mexican chalked up wins in Saudi Arabia and Baku while Verstappen took victory in Australia.
Reflecting on that defeat in the Azerbaijani capital, Verstappen revealed that he experimented with set-up options on his Red Bull RB19, which bore fruit as he got a sense of how best to work with the team’s 2023 package.
He said that this offered guidance in the following races, and led to the domination of the Miami round that sparked his record-equalling streak of nine consecutive race wins.
“I think I learned a lot from the race in Baku, how to do some [different] things with the car, how to set it up,” Verstappen explained.
“Of course, I didn’t win that race in Baku, but I actually really tried a lot of stuff and different tools in the car, and that’s why in the race it was a little bit inconsistent.
“But at one point I got into a good rhythm with what I found.
“I damaged my tyres a bit too much, but I was like, ‘okay, that’s quite interesting for the next races’. And I basically implemented that and it has helped me on every track.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Verstappen felt that he has had to change his driving style while competing for championships, compared to the early years of his Red Bull career when he was only occasionally able to battle for victories.
He says that much of this has been in balancing risk and reward, although his knowledge of the current Red Bull package has offered him more “control” in how he tackles races – including the changing conditions at Zandvoort.
“It was a lot about risk management,” he said.
“I mean, when I compare it to like a few years ago where I’m not fighting for the championship, I’m driving completely different for sure.
“But that’s fine. I mean, even while driving like this, I know that I have a car which is capable of a lot.
“That probably helps to be a little bit more in control, I guess.”