Max Verstappen says it “doesn’t make sense to hype up” Red Bull’s chances of challenging for the Formula 1 world championship before the season has even started.

Red Bull is hoping to fight Mercedes harder this season and mount a sustained push for its first drivers’ and constructors’ world championship titles since 2013, having finished a huge 254 points adrift last year despite winning two races.

Speaking to media ahead of the new campaign, Verstappen, who alongside new teammate Sergio Perez got his first chance to drive Red Bull’s newly launched RB16B car on Wednesday at Silverstone, was keen to avoid talking up the Milton Keynes squad’s chances.

Asked whether he feels 2021 will be the year Red Bull finally challenges Mercedes, Verstappen replied: “We don’t know yet, to be honest. I am always very realistic and it makes no sense to talk about stuff now.

“We have to go to Bahrain and look at it there, at the first race, and see if we succeeded or not. We know where we want to be and where we want to get to and that’s what we now need to try and realise.”

Verstappen said he is seeking “more grip and more power” from Red Bull’s updated RB16B, with Honda working hard over the winter to fast-track the introduction of a brand-new engine that was originally intended for 2022.

“People always talked about the rear-end being so twitchy, I think it’s just general grip we were lacking a bit,” he explained.

"Also, we were a bit down on power. We know that - there’s no secret behind it, you can see it. So we worked a lot with Honda throughout the winter.

“It’s all looking promising but it doesn’t make sense now to hype it all up. First, it’s more important to get to the track in Bahrain and try to do the best amount of learning we can on the car and the engine to optimise everything.

“I want to stay low-key and focus on our job. We should do the talking on the track, not next to the track. That’s what I prefer.”

While Verstappen said it was too early to get a proper read of the RB16B from his shakedown run, he is hopeful that the work the team put in to understand the issues it faced with its 2020 car will bear fruit and enable Red Bull to hit the ground running this time around. 

“The car is always on the edge and a fast car is never super easy to drive, because if it becomes super easy to drive, most the time it is too understeery anyway,” Verstappen said.

“I just wanted more grip, it doesn’t mean that it’s tricky to drive because you just adapt to the situation you are in. I think at the end of the season Mercedes stopped developing that car from whenever, June or July, because you couldn’t really see a lot of updates.

“We just kept learning and we know we had a few issues with that car and we wanted to improve it. Also knowing the regulations wouldn’t change that much, obviously the floor changed a bit but in general, the car stayed very much the same.

“For us, it was important to get on top of that and let’s see this year if we improved it even more and we are even better and hopefully we can be more competitive compared to Mercedes.”

 

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