Verstappen has work to do for tomorrow: ‘I completely missed that last corner’

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The pressure is high in the denouement of the title fight in Abu Dhabi, but Max Verstappen remains calm. If the car is good enough, he will win the title. If not, it will be difficult, but he will still have enough time to try again in subsequent years. Verstappen is satisfied with the changes to the Yas Marina Circuit, but has not had a very easy weekend so far. The balance of the car was not great on Friday, so the team still has work to do.

Verstappen had a good first free practice session on the Yas Marina Circuit: he was immediately at the top of the times list, about two tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ fastest Mercedes. Judging by the results, he was less successful in the second free practice. The Dutchman was only fourth, more than six tenths behind Lewis Hamilton. However, those results give a distorted picture, says Verstappen in the Formula 1 Café. “I think they were already driving with a little more power.”

In addition, the Dutchman also had balance problems, which depressed his own lap time. “My lap wasn’t good either. In the last corner when braking I got a lot of understeer, so I missed that corner completely.’ The fact that the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen was so big in VT2, is therefore not only due to the higher engine position at Mercedes. ‘We also need some improvement from our side.’

‘Always found turn 5-6-7 annoying’

This year Formula 1 will drive for the first time on a extensively renovated Yas Marina Circuit. The slow chicanes before the first and after the second DRS zone have each been replaced by a single flowing bend, with the aim of improving flow and overtaking opportunities on the track. Verstappen is happy with the changes that have been made. ‘It’s a bit more fun, a bit smoother too. I think this is generally better.” The Dutchman is particularly pleased with the fact that the first corner complex has been replaced. “I always found turn 5-6-7 a bit annoying, so this is better.” Because the new layout cuts off quite a bit from the old one, the Red Bull driver expects lap times that are up to 14 seconds faster than before.

With these two changes, as well as subtle changes to some of the other corners on the track, the track has become faster and less cramped. Quite a few slow corners have been eliminated from the layout. However, according to Verstappen, this offers no advantage or disadvantage for Red Bull Racing, although this was expected by some. The Dutchman finds predictions like these difficult: ‘It also depends on how you get the tires to work, how the car reacts. Every track is different, sometimes you’re pretty good in the slow corners, sometimes the fast ones, so it’s always hard to say.”

‘If the car is good enough, we will win’

Despite the fact that the championship will be decided at this Grand Prix, Verstappen will be no different this weekend. ‘I’m actually very calm’, says the Dutchman. “I know that if the car is good enough, then we will win it, and if the car is not enough it will be very difficult.” That makes it easy, Verstappen thinks. While he’s happy to take the title, it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t. “I’m only 24, so I don’t think I’m going to freak out next year. That will all be fine.’

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