Max Verstappen bullish after successful Bahrain testing: ‘Our goal is to win’

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in the media pen. Bahrain February 2023.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in the media pen after pre-season testing. Bahrain February 2023.

Max Verstappen spoke with a calm confidence when asked about his and Red Bull’s targets for the 2023 season, after a successful three-day test in Bahrain.

When the reigning World Champion spoke to media including after his test running was complete and the assembled drivers were asked what they feel their car might be capable of when the season starts, Verstappen’s response was emphatic: “Our goal is to win and then win the championship.”

Verstappen’s long-time race engineer GianPiero Lambiase acknowledged the team “hit the ground running” on the first day in Bahrain, with the Dutchman on his own completing more laps than any other team and topping the timesheets to boot – though ultimate lap time is often unrepresentative during testing, through a number of factors like variable tyre compounds, fuel loads and engine modes in play.

But few can deny Red Bull have enjoyed three solid days of running around Bahrain, with other teams wary that they could well be the team to beat once again this season.

When it came to his time behind the wheel, Verstappen spoke positively about what he has seen so far – though he knows it will only count properly when racing gets underway in earnest next weekend and the true competitive order is known.

“It’s been very good,” he said of his testing time. “I think the car is working really well. Yeah, just going through all the things that we wanted to try and everything. It’s very interesting, what we have been trying, so very positive days for me and just in general, just enjoying driving the car.

“There are quite a few differences on the car, it definitely drives a bit different but I think that’s also been related to the tyres. But overall, I think it’s definitely an improvement to last year.

“It’s not only about confidence, it’s just about actually just putting the performance down. I think we’ve had really positive test days and we learned a lot and hopefully we just start off the weekend well, and then we’ll see where we end up.”

When it comes to how his rivals stack up, though, Verstappen is unsure about where the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes stand next to the pace of the RB19, but he is preferring to prioritise his own operation at this moment in time.

“It’s difficult to say,” he said when asked about the speed of other teams. “I think it’s more important that we just focus on ourselves and we’re happy with what we’re doing.”

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Additional reporting by Thomas Maher