Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen has called the idea of focussing fully on 2019 as “exciting”, as the 2018 Formula 1 season comes to a close with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Red Bull will take on Honda engines next year, joining junior side Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, after 12 years with customer Renault Sport power – in a bid to seriously challenge Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport and Scuderia Ferrari.
Verstappen stands a good chance of passing Valtteri Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship, after first and second place finishes at the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix respectively. A swing of four points in Verstappen’s favour will see him score a first top four finish in the standings. The Dutchman lost the opportunity to take his first set of back-to-back victories in Formula 1, after colliding with backmarker Esteban Ocon at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.
Looking ahead to the Abu Dhabi weekend, Verstappen called the event a “special one due to the atmosphere”, also appreciating the spectacle of a day-to-night race.
“Apart from being the last race of the year, Abu Dhabi is always a special one due to the atmosphere,” Verstappen said.
“The crowds are big and noisy, and being a sunset race adds to the unique feeling. After a busy few races I think everyone looks forward to getting to Abu Dhabi. The nice weather and a more relaxed feel in the paddock means everyone is smiling.
“The track itself is fun to drive, passing the yachts in the final sector has a similar feel to Monaco, but it’s not as tight.”
The last Red Bull win in Abu Dhabi came courtesy of Sebastian Vettel in 2013, and Verstappen is cautious about the team’s chances. The long back straights in the middle sector contradict the RB14‘s strengths, however, the 21-year-old is confident about their performance in the tight last sector.
“There are some long straights that do not really play to our strong points but we will try to make up for this in the twisty sectors,” Verstappen admitted.
On the Tuesday after the race, the official end of season test will take place at the Yas Marina Circuit, with Verstappen expressing his excitement in turning full attention to next season.
“Once the race is done the team can relax a bit, and have some well-earned downtime,” he continued.
“We of course have testing shortly after but I will definitely try to chill out and get some sun on the Monday. Before we know it, we’ll be testing and working hard towards 2019 throughout the winter, which is very exciting.”