The key mindset change that explains Max Verstappen’s lack of anger towards surprise brake failure

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen was circumspect after retiring from the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen retired with a technical problem in Australia, but the Dutch driver was remarkably pragmatic about it afterward.

The three-time F1 World Champion, seeking his third consecutive victory to kick off the 2024 campaign, started from pole position in Melbourne but was caught and passed by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz before Verstappen slowed with a rear brake issue.

Max Verstappen ‘convinced’ he could have won in Australia

Verstappen struggled with the brake issue right from the start of the Grand Prix, with a rear brake essentially locked on before overheating and catching fire. The Red Bull driver had attempted to push through the issue, but slowed as the smoke intensified as he was then forced to pit.

With the brake assembly exploding due to the fire on the wheel hub, Verstappen was out of the race – his first retirement in two years since a technical failure in the same race in 2022. The last time Verstappen lost a race was at last year’s Singapore GP, where Red Bull were uncharacteristically off the boil performance-wise.

But, aside from a little bit of frustration in the immediate aftermath of his Australia retirement, Verstappen wasn’t overly annoyed by the problem and remained circumspect during his media duties afterward.

Having lost the opportunity to continue Red Bull’s dominant streak so early in the year, unlike last year’s run that kept going until September’s race in Singapore, Verstappen explained why he wasn’t duly concerned about his issue that hit his car in Australia.

Speaking to Dutch publication De Limburger in Japan, Verstappen was asked whether him hitting back hard can be expected at Suzuka – in similar fashion to what he did after Singapore’s disappointment last season.

“The goal after Singapore last year was to show that it was a one-off thing,” he explained.

“We just weren’t happy with how we had done. Two weeks ago we had that failure in Australia, but the speed that weekend, unlike Singapore, was okay. So the feeling is different.

“Now you think: we will continue on the same path. I’m convinced that I could have just won the race in Australia, although Ferrari was strong that weekend.”

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With Verstappen well known in earlier parts of his career for getting very frustrated when things didn’t go smoothly for him, the Dutch driver believes the success he’s achieved in recent seasons lends itself to being able to have some perspective.

“In the meantime, I have been world champion three times,” he said.

“That still provides more peace of mind than five, six years ago. You know: the car is just going well.

“Of course, we have to make sure that we don’t drop out anymore, because in the end, it’s precious points that you miss out on.”

Shining a light on how he had taken the Australia failure, Verstappen was matter-of-fact when asked about his calm acceptance of the retirement: “Well. I can’t change anything at that point anyway.”

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