The 2022 season did not start in the best way for Max Verstappen. He added two retirements in the first three races but, little by little, the Red Bull driver saw that everything began to turn pink.
After those first three races, the word ‘regularity’ is, perhaps, the one that best defines the year of the reigning world champion. With the exception of Silverstone , where he finished seventh after completing the race with a piece of an AlphaTauri stuck in his car, the Dutchman hasn’t stepped off the podium since.
After thirteen appointments, his victories counter rises to eight, putting the record for the greatest number of wins in a season within his reach, since there are nine races left to play and the figure to overcome is thirteen, in the hands of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. But mere numbers are not capable of telling the whole story that has led to them.
In the spring, Verstappen was not particularly happy with the front end of his car, particularly on urban tracks such as Monaco and Baku . The front end did not turn enough, which meant that the Dutchman was not entirely comfortable in the RB18 due to understeer. The situation seems to have improved, but the litmus test will come at the next track with similar characteristics: Singapore .
It seems that Verstappen has become more attuned to the RB18, while his teammate, Sergio Pérez, seems to have more problems. The Mexican has revealed that the updates that the team has been introducing throughout the season are better suited to the Dutchman’s driving style, but is that true?
We found the answer thanks to Helmut Marko , who provided answers exclusively to Motorsport.com. The Red Bull adviser confessed that “Max [Verstappen] likes a car that is good at the front. He doesn’t care what the rear does.”
“If the rear goes to 300 km/h, Perez says, like all the drivers before him, that the car is undrivable , but for Max it doesn’t change anything at all,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, our car tended to understeer . In the end, it was about making the car as fast as possible to get the full potential out of it.”
According to Marko himself, these changes have happened gradually and as a result the RB18 has tended more towards Verstappen’s driving style.
“With a car that suits Max better, the ‘Verstappen factor’ is automatically heightened more than before. And when you have such an outstanding driver in your team, it’s important to get the most out of him,” explained Marko.
“Perez may have returned to his usual level as a result, but being a teammate of Max is not easy,” admitted the Austrian adviser.
Marko has no doubts and no problems admitting that Verstappen is the best driver he has ever had under his command at Red Bull: “That is clear, yes. After winning the title last year, he has gained in authority without sacrificing pure speed. As a result, it is even faster than before, without taking excessive risks or forcing the material.”
Speaking of the material, that is another aspect that stands out this year at Red Bull. The structure of energy drinks has always been behind the top speed of Mercedes, which spent many years being superior to the rest, but in Milton Keynes they have a new weapon that helps them in this regard.
But the big question is to what extent this improvement in top speed is due to Red Bull and to what extent to Honda. Marko is clear that it is a combination of both factors working in unison.
“The concept of the car comes from Adrian Newey , of course. He managed to design a car that provides a lot of downforce without suffering from a lot of drag. That’s the first reason.” In other words, the Red Bull car is ‘low drag’.
“Also, Honda did a great job of development after last year, and the switch to E10 hardly took any power from us. So good top speed is a combination of those two factors,” he said.
The result is a luxury that Red Bull has never had since it took over the Jaguar team. “That also makes the approach to racing very different. In the last few years we used to be the slowest team on the straights, now we are the fastest. That’s fine of course. Especially because in the corners we lose a lot. little of what we gained on the straights”, declared Marko.