26 March 2016
F1 Bahrain GP: Verstappen: You have to be loyal
Despite grabbing the attention of the wider F1 world in his debut season, Max Verstappen insists that he is happy in the Red Bull camp.
Max Verstappen says that he has no reason to leave the Red Bull family when his contract with Toro Rosso expires, acknowledging that the drinks brand's development programme accelerated his road to F1.
The Dutchman became the youngest-ever F1 driver when he made his debut as a 17-year old in last year's Australian Grand Prix, and quickly defied sceptics who said that his age and lack of single-seater experience - Verstappen graduated straight to F3 from karting and then vaulted into the STR line-up after just one season - would make him a liability on track. Instead, he proved to be a breath of fresh air on the grand prix scene - both on and off track - and heads into 2016 as a likely target to move on from Faenza as bigger teams come calling.
With an obvious move to Red Bull Racing already a possibility for next season, Verstappen does not seem likely to be short of offers, with Ferrari also heavily rumoured to be courting his services should Kimi Raikkonen finally take leave of the top flight. Verstappen, however, appears keen to put such small talk out of his mind as he focuses on the 21-race season that lies ahead.
“I'm very happy with Red Bull so I don't see any reason to change that," he insisted in Melbourne, "You also have to be loyal - they gave me the chance to start in F1. It was my dream and I'm very happy to be here.”
Asked again if racing for Ferrari would be a temptation, the Dutchman refused to alter his stance.
“Like I said, I'm very happy at Red Bull," he insisted, "We'll see what happens in the future.”
With one season under his belt, and the spotlight more likely to find him in 2016, Verstappen could be forgiven for feeling the pressure to perform but, perhaps typical of a teenager, he shrugs off the weight of expectation.
“Never," he says when asked if he feels the pressure, "Why not? Because you cannot do more than your best, so I will do my best and that's it.”
[My approach] is even a bit more relaxed, I would say. You experience the first season and, from there on, with the experience you have, you just know what's coming a bit more. Of course, it's still a new season, new cars, some new drivers around, but you know how to build up a racing weekend much more than when I was here last year [and] that helps a lot.”
Although he only managed tenth place in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, having slipped back from an impressive fifth spot on the grid as frustration with both STR team-mate Carlos Sainz and the team's strategic thinking got the better of him, Verstappen insists that he is not setting goals for himself in 2016.
“It's a bit difficult because we don't know where we are exactly [in the pecking order] and how good our package is," he reasoned, "I just try to do the best myself and score the best possible results what the car can do and what I can do. Then I think we can be satisfied.”
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