Max Verstappen’s ex-performance engineer warns rivals of ‘dangerous’ trait

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen aerial Red Bull. Azerbaijan April 2023

Max Verstappen aerial Red Bull. Azerbaijan April 2023

Former F1 performance engineer Blake Hinsey believes Max Verstappen is as much a “monster” when it comes to finding speed and saving his tyres as is his team-mate Sergio Perez.

Perez has often been called the tyre whisperer, the Mexican driver seemingly able to run longer stints than the rest of the field with his reputation earned during his Force India days when a long-run strategy would yield points or even podiums.

He carried that through to Red Bull where he has gone up against team-mate Verstappen with the two trading blows in this year’s Championship where they are separated by six points after the first four race weekends.

But while Perez has the reputation of being able to nurse his tyres, Red Bull team boss Helmut Marko insists that’s something both of his drivers can do.

“Max has gradually become a tyre whisperer,” he said last season. “We give him a certain plan and he executes it optimally.”

But that’s not just praise from the Austrian for his number one driver, the numbers prove it is true says former performance engineer Hinsey. recommends

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Speaking about Perez and the tyre reputation after his Baku win, Hinsey told Channel 4: “There’s the narrative of him being exceptionally good on the tyres.

“I think the dangerous thing for all the other teams is both Max and Checo are insanely good on their tyres. They have the conundrum they can do it, go fast and save tyres.

“That’s the thing, most drivers you asked them ‘we need you to increase your pace by two tenths, can you look after the tyre?’ They say ‘no’.

“Whatever it is about the car and combination with these two guys, I’ve seen Checo do it many times, and I’ve seen Max do it multiple times. They’re both monsters.

“But what is it exactly that he’s good at? Yes the low speed 90 degree corners [are] great at it, taking risks when he needs to leaving just enough margin repeatedly over and over in the way that you need to do that to do well in a race and qualifying session around the street circuit.

“They both can do it. But he’s traditionally been much closer at the circuits numerically.”

The former performance engineer, who has worked with both drivers, explained that on a traditional circuit Verstappen has “half a percent upwards of a one percent gap” over Perez but that’s negated at street circuits where they’re on a par.

“One of the things I noticed the most looking through their data this season, and at the end of last season,” he said, “is there’s a lot of instances where I saw that Checo was trying to take too big a bite out of entries to corners and losing out on the exits in high speed, medium speed and low speed corners.

“Somehow that level of aggression that you need to get the most out of a street circuit, he tends to go very well there.

“And just looking at from a numbers point of view, and yes there’s all sorts of contexts and everything else – unlucky red flags, Max not setting a second time in Monaco, running out of fuel in Singapore last year.

“But if you ignore all that and just say let’s just look at the numbers, because over a whole season maybe luck comes to you in an equal doses.

“Traditional circuits, Max was about half a percent ahead. So I mean he had a clear gap to him on traditional circuits, half a percent upwards of a one percent gap to Checo.

“On street circuits, there was no gap in the qualifying laps they set. Obviously the context from that remove, but the numbers don’t lie. He does tend to go well there, he qualifies well, there, he tends to race well there.

“So I think it’s a little bit of everything, the killer instinct, the adaptability.”