Adrian Newey highlights Max Verstappen’s greatest strengths in 2022

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen waving as he is surrounded by photographers. Japan October 2022

Red Bull’s Adrian Newey believes Max Verstappen’s reaction time and car control have been “absolutely amazing” in 2022.

The 2021 World Champion added another title to his growing list of accomplishments last time out in Japan, as Verstappen came home to take the race win and secure the ’22 Drivers’ Championship.

His victory, Red Bull’s 14th from 18 races, means the RB18 has become Newey’s most successful F1 machine – an impressive feat for a designer who had machines like the Williams FW14B and McLaren’s MP4/13 on his record.

Newey, who was worked with World Champions like Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, and Sebastian Vettel, was asked for his opinion on where Verstappen ranks amongst the drivers that have piloted a Newey machine to the title.

“It’s very unfair to rank. I think the biggest thing is just how different they all are – their individual character strengths,” Newey said.

“What you can say about Max are his reactions – and his car control is absolutely amazing. I think we saw that [in Japan] – his move around the outside of Charles [Leclerc].

“Charles actually got the better start into Turns 1 and 2, and it was amazing commitment and control. That’s what makes him so special.”

But it was one particular race this year that particularly impressed Newey, as one of Verstappen’s race wins demanded more than just speed or aggression.

Adrian Newey picks out a stand-out race from Max Verstappen

“For me, his standout race this year has been Hungary,” he said.

“He had a problem with the crankshaft snapping in the pit lane, so he was 10th on the grid. We had a clutch problem, so we had to tell him to be very patient and not use the DRS for many laps to get the clutch under control. He did that, with no push back, complete patience, and then, when we needed him to push, he was completely clinical.”

With Verstappen seemingly improving upon his already impressive 2021 season, Newey pointed to last year’s title win allowing the Dutch driver to become more confident in himself.

“I think part of it is the relief of getting his first championship under his belt, so he doesn’t feel as if he has to prove himself in perhaps the way he did last year,” he said.

“He has undoubtedly.. I mean he’s very young, he’s just turned 25, he’s learning all the time.

“With that, comes maturity in any case, but I think also the monkey off his back from winning the championship last year. In the races this year, when he hasn’t been at the front, he’s shown real patience and got it there. There is deep respect to him for making that big progress, maybe two years ago he perhaps wouldn’t have done that.”

Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads Ferrari's Charles Leclerc at the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022. points

It’s in his patience, and maturity, that Verstappen has impressed Red Bull this season – a sentiment echoed by team boss Christian Horner on many occasions this season.

Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan, speaking to the F1 Nation podcast after the Japanese Grand Prix, said a calmness has come over Verstappen – something that wasn’t there in the past.

“My observation of it, and this is only a personal view, is I’ve seen a more assured Max with his own performances,” he said.

“Disappointments like Bahrain, Australia, they didn’t derail him. You’d see a calmness to him, which wasn’t always there in the past. Last year was a tumultuous moment with Lewis and he fought all the way.

“This year, in adversity, he’s demonstrated unbelievable levels of skill and confidence. We’ve been a bit fortunate – if you look at Spain, we shouldn’t really have won that one, but we did.

“So I’ve seen a more mature Max driving better than I’ve ever seen him drive. He was brilliant last year, but this year there has been a calmness and assurance.”

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