Ex-Max Verstappen engineer’s radical solution to re-ignite F1 passion

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen with the winner's trophy. Montreal, Canada. June 2023.

Max Verstappen with the winner's trophy. Montreal, Canada. June 2023.

Max Verstappen’s former performance engineer Blake Hinsey suggested that the Dutchman getting out of “easy mode” could help him reconnect with his love for Formula 1.

The Red Bull driver has firmly positioned himself at the pinnacle of Formula 1 as he homes in on a third World title in succession, having won 10 of the 12 grands prix so far in F1 2023.

While 10 rounds of the campaign remain, his lead of 125 points at the top of the Drivers’ Championship over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez means this latest title success is already a foregone conclusion.

Does Max Verstappen need to follow Alex Albon’s lead?

Verstappen heads into his home race, the Dutch Grand Prix, looking to match Sebastian Vettel’s record with a ninth victory on the bounce, but for a driver enjoying such huge success, Verstappen over recent months has been expressing dissatisfaction over life in the series.

Mostly recently the Dutchman lashed out at the extra demands from activities like simulator and marketing work on top of the already bulky F1 calendar, claiming his eye-watering paycheque is no substitute for well-being.

And so Hinsey, who says he can understand Verstappen’s complaints, considering the growing F1 calendar contributed to him stepping away, suggested that perhaps the Dutchman needs a situation like Albon’s at Williams to re-engage him with the series.

Albon, Verstappen’s former Red Bull team-mate, is earning plaudits for his impressive displays at Williams, scoring a best-ever result with the team of P7 at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix.

Perhaps then Verstappen needs that challenge in a car which is not dominant like the Red Bull RB19?

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“I would argue that let’s say Max is perceiving this to be on easy mode right now, it’s like he’s got a lot of performance in his pocket,” said Hinsey on the Sky F1 podcast.

“What else is there to strive for other than absolute perfection? 10 out of 10 every weekend.

“Whereas let’s say you’re driving a Mercedes right now, the car is not great, it’s still a way off the championship, which one of those has more hooks to keep you invested?

“Like Alex Albon’s season this year in the Williams. That’s got to be super motivating.

“It doesn’t look successful, but at the same time, it’s like I can see the progress, I can see the trajectory, I can achieve something. So maybe a couple of years in a slower car and lots of challenges would actually reignite some of that.”

Damon Hill suggests Max Verstappen takes year out of Formula 1

1996 World Champion Hill had an idea of his own for how Verstappen could fully enjoy being a Formula 1 driver again, that being by giving it up for a year.

Hill referred to drivers such as Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen who took sabbaticals before returning to F1, Alonso especially coming back in 2021 refreshed and to this day operating at the peak of his powers, despite now being 42.

“We’re talking very early burnout, aren’t we?” Hill stated.

“I mean, you look at Fernando, he had a bit of time out, as did Kimi, you do wonder whether sometimes these drivers need a kind of reset year where they kind of go ‘okay, I want to do all these other things I don’t have time for when I’m a Formula 1 driver’.

“And well, okay, go and do it, and then you’ll realise that actually, you really are much more interested in winning grand prixs and being in Formula 1.

“And the guys who’ve come back I think they’ve hit the ground with more enthusiasm than they had before they were there doing it.

“So I’m not sure about all his talk of getting exhausted and there’s too many races. I think that it looks great on the outside if you want a break and you want to go on your boat or lounge around on the beach or whatever it is. But until you do it, and then you realise you’ve got ants in your pants and you want to go again.”

Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until the end of the 2028 campaign.

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