Max Verstappen’s shock revelation before F1 domination began to take hold

Oliver Harden
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on the podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2023.

Max Verstappen has admitted that he occasionally considered leaving Red Bull in the years before the team emerged as F1’s dominant force.

The reigning double World Champion is currently the star of the show in F1, having won 32 of the last 51 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning season in 2021.

Verstappen claimed his fifth successive victory at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix to secure Red Bull’s ninth consecutive win from the start of the 2023 season, but dominance wasn’t always the way for team and driver.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

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Despite famously winning on his debut for the team at the age of 18 at the 2016 Spanish GP, Verstappen was restricted to just 10 wins in his first five years as a Red Bull driver as Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team reigned supreme.

After a number of disappointing years, Verstappen and Red Bull finally became equals to Hamilton and Mercedes in 2021 as Verstappen secured his first World Championship in highly controversial circumstances.

Ahead of this weekend’s British GP, McLaren driver Lando Norris opened up about his frustration that he is yet to win a race in F1 having arrived on the grid back in 2019.

“I want to win so much, but at the same time, it feels so far away,” he told the Press Association. “Everyone puts in the effort, and when I am not close to fighting for points, it takes a lot out of me.

“I don’t get anything out of it and it hurts. And when I think I have been in F1 for five seasons, I feel like ‘damn’. Five years have gone by so quickly and before I know it I will have been here for 10. I don’t want to be in this position then.”

Speaking to the media including on Thursday at Silverstone, Verstappen has admitted that he sometimes doubted whether Red Bull would ever recapture their former glories – namely when the team agreed an engine partnership with Honda, fresh from a troubled three-year stint with McLaren, in June 2018.

And the Dutchman stressed the importance of a driver sticking to – and, crucially, believing in – the team’s plans to get to the top.

He said: “Unfortunately, that is a bit how how Formula 1 is. If Lando would be in a race-winning car, he would regularly win races – it’s as simple as that.

“But sometimes you have to stick to the process, you believe in the process. Again people can say, ‘Yeah, we believe in it’ – but you really have to believe in it. You really have to know and see that you’re attracting the right people to make a winning team and really get everything into place. recommends

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“And I did trust our process around it. Of course, sometimes you’re a bit sceptical – a new engine partner, is this going to work out? – but then you can see how much they were determined to make it work.

“Of course, sometimes I had my doubts: ‘Is this actually going to work? I don’t know.’

“Of course, sometimes I had this thought of maybe I should leave, but at the same time in those years I was also developing a lot as a driver.

“And you never forget who put you in Formula 1 in the first place. You also have to be loyal to that, I find.

“And people sometimes say the grass is greener on the other side, but most of the time it’s not and I think it’s very important to remember these kinds of things in situations like that.”

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