Max Verstappen’s former race engineer Xevi Pujolar says the three-time World Champion comes across as a “difficult guy” from his radio messages, but winning is his sole focus.
Verstappen has now positioned himself firmly atop the Formula 1 mountain, having unleashed an incredible F1 2023 campaign which saw him win 19 of the 22 grands prix held in his third World Championship-winning season.
Such was the extent of his dominance, Verstappen retained his title with a points tally more than double that of his closest challenger and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.
Max Verstappen can seem “difficult guy” but wants to be the best
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
An interesting subplot to Verstappen’s all-conquering F1 2023 has been his relationship with current Red Bull race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, their tense exchanges over the radio becoming something of a regular occurrence with each passing race weekend as the season went on.
It led to Verstappen and Lambiase being described as acting like an “old married couple” by Red Bull principal Christian Horner, though all parties have insisted that the relationship between driver and race engineer is very strong.
Pujolar worked with Verstappen at the start of his journey as his Toro Rosso race engineer, and now Sauber’s head of track engineering, Pujolar spoke with media including PlanetF1.com about Verstappen’s rise from F1 rookie to multi-time World Champion.
Describing Verstappen as a “machine”, Pujolar picked up on the Dutchman’s radio manner as something which gives the perception of him being a “difficult guy”, with being the best there is his only focus.
“It’s good to see,” said Pujolar on the rise of Verstappen. “He’s a machine, really enjoying to see how he’s doing.
“And I feel proud that I was part of that beginning with him. Happy for him.
“I don’t see how they work within the team, but the way how he is behaving on the radio and what I can see, he is the same guy pushing flat out every single lap every day.
“For sure, that makes a difference. Sometimes, he comes across like maybe a difficult guy, but for sure he wants to be the best.”
Asked if he has ever worked with another driver like Verstappen, Pujolar replied: “Not that I know no, probably not. Not that I’ve seen.”
Verstappen will plan on adding much more success to his F1 CV with Red Bull, his contract running through to the end of 2028.