Verstappen is now ‘very good’ at reading Formula One races

Verstappen is now ‘very good’ at reading Formula One races

While the world champion team’s rivals have all come close over the course of this season, Verstappen has always seemed to have what it takes to fend off anyone who looks about to attack.

It was a story repeated during last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, where McLaren’s Lando Norris looked like he could threaten Verstappen in both the sprint and the main race – before the leaders Red Bull could stretch his legs.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the scenarios being played out were not a case for the team to hide its true superiority and only press hard when it needed to.

Instead, it was about Verstappen being an expert at managing his speed and tires to ensure he always remained in control.

“I think everyone runs their pace differently in a race, but I think Max has become very good at reading the race,” Horner explained.

“He doesn’t panic if he sees someone taking time from him in the middle sector or anything. That’s because he looks at the long game.

“And I think he has that inner confidence that he knows his place.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photography: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Horner believes Verstappen is now reaping the benefits of the knowledge he gained over previous seasons – even as he was beaten by the then-dominant Mercedes team.

Asked when he saw Verstappen develop this ability to perfectly judge his tire management, Horner said: “2019, I think it’s during that period that he really stepped it up.

“Then 19 to 20 to some extent. Mercedes had a rocket ship in 2020, but we still managed to win some races that year. Obviously ’21 was huge.

But while Verstappen makes winning look easy in Formula 1, he says high-stakes races like Brazil are never easy to manage.

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“It might look quite easy from the outside, but I think most of the time, Lando matched my lap times,” said the world champion.

“It was always like the last five to 10 laps when it seemed like then, of course, we had a better tire grade. But yeah, at the start of each stint, I definitely had to concentrate a lot and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes.

“Here, with the temperature also rising, it’s not the easiest to drive. It’s not like you can relax and let the car roll into the corners without any consequences. You had to really be on it.

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