Around Barcelona in the new Red Bull RB18 on Wednesday, Max Verstappen was driving in a totally different style to anything we’ve seen before from the reigning Formula 1 world champion.
Gone are the high-energy stunts in slow corners and the generally aggressive body language of his former high-output Red Bull.
In the new ultra-low rake car, he drove like a more extreme version of Jenson Button!
Incredibly smooth, at the start of the brakes, but also at the start of the power, super smooth steering inputs. It’s as if he had developed a particular style – in the simulator? – based on maximizing the efficiency of the powerful new venturi tunnels under the floor.
The less variation there is in the height and angle of attack of these venturi inlets, the better they should perform. The car is still, says the team, very far from its optimum. But could it just be that he has special characteristics and that Verstappen is the first to fully grasp that a new approach may be needed?
It’s a style that contrasts sharply not only with his own previous technique, but also with that of the most spectacular rider of the first day – Charles Leclerc.
He was pushing the Ferrari hard around the corners, the front wheels about to lock up, forceful on the steering wheel, using the throttle to contain the wayward rear end. It looked great and maybe that’s how Ferrari demands to be driven – and on the clock it was faster than the Red Bull.
But ignore the times for now – we can’t read anything into them at this point. That’s what those very different body languages on the track mean, which could prove to be the first hints of what the new era has in store.
Thank you for your opinion!