Max Verstappen says his half season with Red Bull has left him convinced he is ready to fight for the world championship in 2017, and that he would reign back his aggression if he had a car capable of title glory.
The Dutchman has experienced a range of highs and lows since being moved to at the Spanish Grand Prix, triumphing that first time out at Barcelona but also getting involved in some controversial clashes with his rivals.
But despite some frustrations over the campaign, Verstappen has no doubts that if can deliver a strong car next year he is fully ready to gun for glory.
“Yeah, absolutely, because your mind set completely changes once you have that championship-winning car,” he said in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com.
“[If you have that car] you don’t need to go at 105 percent all the time. You can ease off a bit, take a second instead of pushing for first.
“While I know you always try to get the best possible result, because maybe that’s the best possible chance of getting a win, sometimes it can go to the wrong side and then people think that you are too aggressive. But I think your whole mind set just completely changes.”
Verstappen says that one of the biggest challenges he has faced at was finding just how hard he could push his car.
With teammate Daniel Ricciardo well settled at the team in his third year there, Verstappen says stepping up from Toro Rosso was an eye-opener.
“I think in general just getting to know the limits of the car more,” he said when asked about the key area he felt progress was needed. “The way I have to drive it, different scenarios, different circumstances of weather and stuff like that.
“And just getting more comfortable with your seat position, the throttle pedal, brake pedal, how stiff you want those things, all this kind of stuff.
“I would say it’s getting more and more and more in the way I want it. But you always experience new things on a new track. Then you’re like ‘Ah, this seems to work pretty well on the car, let’s work from there’. It just keeps progressing.”
While the rivalry with Ricciardo has been closely matched at times – and there have been a few minor flashpoints – Verstappen insists that he feels more more relaxed than he was at Toro Rosso when things got tense at times with teammate Carlos Sainz.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” he explained. “At Toro Rosso you want to prove yourself to get the jump to the big team. So that’s why things can be a bit more tense in general.
“Once you get the jump to the big team, you’re there, you know. And then, from there on you start working on getting good results and fight for victories or podiums. I think that’s why that makes it a little more more relaxed.”
When asked what he has learned from Ricciardo, Verstappen said: “I mean I think it’s just experience, I would say. He knows the car, of course, much better than I do. He’s driven the car a lot of years already. That’s just general experience.
“You know if you had a bad lap or not and then you say ‘OK, well, give me a new set tyres, I will get almost a second out of it’. You just feel it as a driver.
And, of course, when I just jumped in the car or in general, still, sometimes you are a bit like, I don’t know the full potential of the car yet. I think that just comes by experience.”