Verstappen’s Form Trending in Positive Direction

Ross Gibson

Max Verstappen has not had the breakout season in his Formula One career that his potential suggested when he became the youngest victor of a Grand Prix in the 2016 campaign.

The Dutchman has been fairly volatile around the track, drawing the ire of his more experienced counterparts. It has resulted in numerous retirements that have left him off the pace in the race for the Drivers’ Championship over the past two terms.

The 20-year-old’s current campaign was in danger in following his 2017 season. However, he has started to find his form and the speed in his Red Bull to match Mercedes and Ferrari at the top of the leaderboard. Verstappen remains well off the pace for the Drivers’ Championship, but given the close nature of the battle for title, a run of victories could drag him back into contention.

Verstappen endured a poor run of form in the 2017 season as collisions and faults with his Red Bull prevented him from finishing seven out of the opening 14 races to the campaign. He found his touch in the remaining six races, notching two victories in Malaysia and Mexico along with a second-place finish in the United States. The results highlighted his potential on the track as he outperformed his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo down the stretch.

However, come the start of the 2018 season, he was off the pace in Australia. Verstappen displayed the pace to place fourth on the grid in qualifying, but he dropped down two places to finish in sixth. Both Red Bull drivers were forced out of the Bahrain Grand Prix as Verstappen had issues with his transmission in just the third lap of the race, while Ricciardo only finished the first lap. The 20-year-old bounced back with a solid outing at the Chinese Grand Prix, with a five-place finish, although the speed of both Mercedes and Ferraris proved to be too much for the Dutchman to contend with.

Verstappen then highlighted his inexperience and rashness on the track. On lap 40, he and Ricciardo were placed fourth and fifth respectively at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. When the Australian moved to overtake his team-mate, the 20-year-old was too overzealous in his defence, making contact, which forced both drivers out of the meet. Red Bull will look back at that incident with frustration should they close the gap in the Constructors’ Championship come the end of the season.

The Dutchman has bounced back by claiming two podiums in his last three races. Verstappen was able to move through the field to clinch third place, although he was 26 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, who notched the win. His momentum was stymied at the Monaco Grand Prix when he crashed in the final practice session, forcing him to start at the back of the grid. Verstappen still managed to place in ninth, which he then built off with another strong display to hold onto third place from qualifying to the chequered flag. Verstappen’s form is trending in the right direction, but he will need to turn the performances into the victories to make a charge for the crown.