Max Verstappen says he does not ‘pay much attention to the numbers’ despite the Dutchman securing his fortieth career podium finish in last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver survived a first lap clash with Sergio Pérez to record his ninth podium of the season at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. It kept up his remarkable record of finishing inside the top three in every race he has finished this season.
“I don’t really pay much attention to the numbers and of course it is nice to be adding more podiums but we are all here to win so we need to keep working and trying to become even better as a Team,” said Verstappen. “Our goal as a Team always has to be getting on the top step.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Verstappen is expecting it to be tricky to find the best set-up for the car, particularly as there is only one ninety-minute practice session ahead of Qualifying.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy to set-up the car because we only have one practice session which could make it interesting, especially for the engineers!” said the Dutchman. “I don’t expect the anti-clockwise track to be a problem, even though there aren’t many on the calendar, but this track is quite narrow and there are a lot of kerbs you have to take.
“It’s going to be important to find a good compromise between top speed on the long straight and also having decent cornering to hit the kerbs well.”
Verstappen’s previous experience came in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, and during one of the races that weekend, he drove from eleventh on the grid to finish second. However, the Dutchman expects overtaking to be a much more difficult challenge in Formula 1 machinery.
“I’m really looking forward to racing there in an F1 car, the last time for F1 was in 2006 and I think the circuit has changed a little bit since then,” said Verstappen. “I raced there in Formula 3 and really enjoyed it, especially coming through the field in the race.
“You need a decent amount of top speed as well as a good set-up but there are some overtaking opportunities. Of course F1 cars are harder to follow than F3 cars so overtaking won’t be easy but we’ll have to wait and see what is possible.
“If we can get qualifying right then hopefully, we won’t need to overtake too much. Overall, I think it’s going to be a really cool addition to the calendar.”
Albon Eager to Put ‘Messy’ Portuguese Grand Prix Behind him at Imola
Despite missing out on points in Portugal, team-mate Alexander Albon felt, up until race day at least, last weekend was one of his stronger weekends of the season.
Albon qualified inside the top six but his race unravelled early as, on the soft tyres, he found himself shuffled down the pack in the early laps, and ultimately he wound up well adrift of the top ten.
He acknowledges the problems he faced in the Algarve and he knows his future focus needs to be on his race starts and managing tyres when they are cold, as he was found wanting on both last weekend.
“In my opinion, over the Free Practice sessions and qualifying, it was one of my stronger weekends this year,” said Albon. “I felt like we were pretty solid and whilst qualifying could have gone better, in general it has been improving throughout the year which I’m happy about.
“I feel like I’m getting better and feeling more at home with the car on short runs so now the big focus is on race starts and getting off the line well as that’s what compromised us in Portugal, together with the cold tyres.
“It was a strange and messy race. I had a poor start and the first few opening laps weren’t good as we were struggling with cold tyres and no grip. For whatever reason, the soft compound just wouldn’t work properly so it was like driving on black ice for the opening laps where we were just sliding without any warning.
“Once the tyres were up to temperature everything was fine but by then the damage was done and we were stuck in a DRS train which just killed our tyres. I’m looking forward to putting it behind us and having a solid weekend in Imola which is a track that I’m excited to drive at again.”
Albon has previous race experience at Imola but not in Formula 1 machinery, and he expects the track to be unforgiving to mistakes, so it will require precision throughout the weekend. He also knows it will be important to qualify up near the front if he wants to fight for the big points.
“I drove at Imola in my first year of car racing, back in Formula Renault,” said Albon. “It’s a really cool circuit and super historical so I’m excited to drive there in a Formula One car.
“Imola is very, very quick which is always fun for a driver and it’s similar to Suzuka in that it’s about high-speed precision with very little margin for error. I think it will be important for us to qualify well and be up there so that we can race in clean air and fight at the front so we don’t lose time battling other cars.”