Max fired up to ‘stress test’ Lewis

Pretoria News - - SPORT - |

MAX Ver­stap­pen has one last chance to be­come For­mula One’s youngest world cham­pion this sea­son but it is not some­thing he dwells on.

The 22-year-old Red Bull driver holds the records for youngest F1 driver (17) and youngest race win­ner (18) but shrugs at talk of reach­ing an­other age-re­lated mile­stone.

“I don’t think about it too much,” the Dutch­man told Reuters dur­ing pre-sea­son test­ing in Barcelona when asked about pos­si­bly tak­ing the record from Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, whose first ti­tle with Red Bull in 2010 came at 23 years and 134 days.

Ver­stap­pen will turn 23 on Septem­ber 30, three days af­ter the Rus­sian Grand Prix.

“For me it’s more about we want to win this sea­son. We want to fight for that cham­pi­onship.

“If that means that you be­come the youngest, great. But in 20 years’ time, I’m not go­ing to look back at that record be­ing the youngest.

“Let’s say it doesn’t hap­pen,” he added. “Bad luck. I hope­fully have an­other 15-20 years then to try and win a few more.

“Many peo­ple say, ‘Ah, you’re the youngest driver in F1 ever’ and I’m like: ‘Yeah, but I don’t care about those kind of records’.”

De­spite his youth, Ver­stap­pen has al­ready started 102 races and won eight.

Last year, the son of for­mer racer and Dutch favourite Jos was best of the rest be­hind six times world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton and the Bri­ton’s Mercedes team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas.

If Red Bull give him a good enough car, he could be the main man tak­ing the fight to Hamil­ton when the sea­son starts in Mel­bourne on March 15.

“For me that’s al­ways been the aim. I’m wait­ing to have that op­por­tu­nity,” he said.

“Of course I have to make sure that I am ready for it but I think I am. I’ve learned a lot over the last few sea­sons, good and bad of course but also the bad things make you bet­ter.

“I think the whole team feels ready for it, so now it’s up to us to de­liver and make sure we are com­pet­i­tive and we are work­ing to­wards that.”

Ver­stap­pen made head­lines last month when he said Hamil­ton was ‘good, but not God’ and he is not over­awed by a ri­val who ranks among the great­est drivers the sport has ever seen.

Hamil­ton, equally, has recog­nised the threat posed by Ver­stap­pen and the young­ster’s ag­gres­sive tal­ent.

His re­tort sug­gest­ing Ver­stap­pen’s fight­ing talk was ‘a sign of weak­ness’ drew a smile from the Dutch­man.

“I think the only com­pe­ti­tion he’s had over the years re­ally has been his team­mate. In gen­eral over the whole sea­son, the car has just been too dom­i­nant for any­one to be able to do some­thing against that,” said Ver­stap­pen.

“That’s why I think we so far haven’t been able to re­ally stress test him. It’s just been a lit­tle bit too com­fort­able.

“I’m just very fired up to give it a good go. I think he knows that.

“The whole team is fired up and we want to give them (Mercedes) a hard time. Oth­er­wise you’d be bet­ter to stay home if you don’t have that fire within your­self that you don’t be­lieve it’s pos­si­ble.”

Ver­stap­pen was also boosted by Hamil­ton say­ing in Mex­ico last year that the Red Bull driver was some­one he usu­ally al­lowed a bit more space.

“I don’t race easy. I fight for it, that’s what I’m here for,” said Ver­stap­pen, who grew up with a hard taskmas­ter in his father.

“If he didn’t see I was do­ing every­thing I could to be suc­cess­ful, he (Jos) said: ‘we pack all this stuff into the van and go home’. I’m ex­actly like that still,” he said of his kart­ing days.

“Over the years I think I took over that men­tal­ity.”

Max Ver­stap­pen

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