It’s been a whirlwind of a season for Max so far. He’s not finished out of the top five all year, collected two wins and a second place podium in the last four races – impressive by anyone’s standards. He currently sits third in the driver standings with 181 points, but as we enter the midterm break, Max is hungry for more.
“It’s pretty good, but it could always be better,’ Max says when he looks back at the first half of his 2019 season. “I think in most of the races we have maximised the results and I felt happy in the car, of course we want to win more races.”
When the season began Max had a new car with a new engine and believed it was going to be tough for the first few races, but the Dutchman knew how to handle his own expectations. “We had a bit more of a difficult start than I think we would’ve liked, car wise, but to then score two victories has been good. We’ve improved the car and Honda improved their engine,” explains Max.
The first win of the season was the biggest highlight in Max’s eyes. Not only was it a home race for Red Bull, it was also the first Formula One win for Honda since 2006. “I was especially happy for Honda to win that race, any win is great, but for them it was emotional and I was happy that it was at our home track in Austria,” he adds.
The Austrian race was another highlight for Max because the Orange Army were there to support him in their thousands. When Max took the lead away from Charles Leclerc with only three laps remaining there was a huge roar from his fans. “It’s amazing to have support like that behind you,” reflects Max. “It gives you a positive energy going into the race, you try to give them a good result and two years in a row we’ve been able to do that.”
Max's 2019 Stats
5 - Podiums for Max, coming in Australia, Spain, Austria, Germany and Hungary
2 - Race wins for the Dutchman
1- Max claimed his first ever pole position in Hungary
181 - Points claimed in the first 12 races of 2019
Another highlight for the 21-year-old was obviously Hockenheim, an incident-filled race in testing conditions. Max drove fantastically well but, looking back at the race, thinks teamwork was the reason he took the chequered flag. “It was tricky out there,” he says. “There were so many changing conditions, you had to stay alert as it was easy to make a mistake, but as a team we managed it really well. Good communication, good pit stops and staying focused, which was the most important. We had the right strategy, right communications and the right tyre when it mattered. Once I was in the lead on the slick tyres then it would’ve been hard to get past me.”
Another thing Max values highly is his Team, especially when it comes to pit stops. There were five in Hockenheim, one of which broke the world record (that the Team had set at the British GP). It now sits at just 1.88 seconds. “It’s crazy,” exclaims Max. “They were very crucial, it was impressive to see that even in those demanding conditions they were still able to break the world record. It’s also good because I know I can race in the pit stops now.”
The final race before the break was Hungary where Max became the 100th F1 driver to take pole position – the first of his career. “My first pole position will always be a special one. A qualifying lap on low fuel is so enjoyable. You can really feel the grip of the car with the full downforce. It was another great day for everyone within The Team, but that team also includes Honda,” he says.
There has been a lot of talk this season about how Max is bringing the sport alive with his aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of driving and that he’s leading the charge of the next generation of drivers. He believes that he is just there to do a job, and if it makes for exciting racing then all the better! “I’m not there to try and make a big show out of it, I’m just trying to get the best result. When we’ve qualified P4 or P5 you have to overtake people in the race, and that automatically creates action, I like fighting on the track and fighting hard for a victory. It has been boring, but lately we’ve had some good ones, which is better for the fans. I take the fight to the other drivers and I think fans like that,” he describes.
With just a few weeks between now and Spa, Max is taking a well-earned break, he’ll be taking a holiday with his girlfriend, meaning he’ll have little time for his other passion, sim-racing. “Maybe I could pack that instead of any clothes, but I don’t think it’ll be an option,” he jokes. “I’ll be on a sim-racing detox.”
Max will be thinking about Spa on 30 August – 01 September, the first race back after the break. “It is my favourite track. It’s just an amazing track with the fast corners, just the whole flow of the track it’s really enjoyable to drive.”
With Honda on board, Max can make claim to three home races: Austria, Great Britain and now Japan, and the Flying Dutchman is looking ahead to Suzuka. “I’m really excited about going to Suzuka, there’s going to be a lot of bias towards Honda and the Team, so I’m looking forward to all the passionate fans coming along and supporting us,” he says.
After the break Max will be focussing on getting his head down and closing the gap between him and Lewis Hamilton, who is 69 points ahead in the standings, it’ll be a battle worth watching, but so far it’s been a great first half of 2019 for Max, but as he says, “It could always be better!”