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Formula 1

Mark Hughes: Verstappen’s Button-esque new driving style

by Mark Hughes
2 min read

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Around Barcelona in the new Red Bull RB18 on Wednesday, Max Verstappen was driving in a style totally unlike anything we’ve seen from the reigning Formula 1 world champion before.

Gone were the high-energy acrobatics through the slow corners and the generally aggressive body language of his high-rake Red Bull of old.

In the new super-low-rake car, he was driving like a more extreme version of Jenson Button!

Incredibly smooth, early on the brakes, but early on the power too, super-smooth steering inputs. It’s as if he had developed a special style – in the simulator? – predicated upon maximising the effectiveness of the powerful new underfloor venturi tunnels.

The less variation there is in the height and angle of attack of those venturi inlets, the better they should work. The car is still, says the team, a very long way from its optimum. But might it just be that it has some special characteristics and Verstappen is the first to fully grasp a new approach may be required?

It’s a style in stark contrast not only to his own previous technique but to that of the most dramatic driver out there on day one – Charles Leclerc.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Test One Day 1 Barcelona, Spain

He would hustle the Ferrari hard into the turns, front wheels just on the point of locking, energetic on the wheel, using the throttle to contain the wayward rear. It looked great and it’s maybe how the Ferrari demands to be driven – and on the stopwatch, it was quicker than the Red Bull.

But ignore the times for now – we cannot read anything into them at this stage. It’s what those very different on-track body languages signify which might turn out to be the first clues of what the new era has in store.

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