Max Verstappen says his big crash at Monaco helped him to find a new level in formula one.
Many people – particularly 17-year-old rookies – might have been forgiven for giving in to fear as Monaco’s fearsome Ste Devote barrier loomed large at well over 200kph.
“I didn’t have time to think very much,” the young Dutchman laughed to Brazil’s Globo. “The only thing I thought was to get ready for a very big impact.”
But when it was over, Verstappen says he actually found a new source of confidence, notwithstanding those who criticised him.
“After the accident,” he explained, “I understood more about the car, and F1. I realised, for example, that the car is really safe and you can really give everything.
“After Monaco I had a leap of performance because I could change my concept of the limit,” added Verstappen.
While some continue to worry about Verstappen’s age, inexperience and apparent bravado, the Toro Rosso driver himself is confident he is ready.
“Many boys would like to do what I’ve done,” he said. “But it is quite difficult, which is something I can say honestly.
“I had the opportunity to learn a lot from a young age from a father who was an F1 driver. It’s a school that other boys don’t really have.
“My experience at 17 is much higher than other guys of the same age.”
Verstappen’s controversial debut, however, motivated the FIA to clamp down on its super licence rules.
And now the governing body is moving to similarly clamp down on its premier F3 class, following a spat of dangerous crashes in 2015.
Asked if he agrees that F3 drivers should get more experience in the junior classes below it, Verstappen said: “Yes, I agree. After the serious accidents we have seen, which is really not positive for F3, I think it’s important.”
That might sound contradictory, given that between late 2013 and late 2014, Verstappen rose all the way from karts to the very pinnacle of motor sport.
“When I think about it,” Verstappen admitted, “I am impressed at the speed at which things have happened to me. I don’t think it’s easy to do what I have done.”
He is also thriving in the high-pressure environment of the Red Bull programme, run by the blunt and often brutal taskmaster Dr Helmut Marko.
“Honestly I don’t feel it,” Verstappen said, when asked about the pressure, and the criticism. “I’ve never felt it. I just focus on doing my best.
“Other drivers, the media — everyone can say what they want about me. Of course, I have great support from the team, which is very important.
“But in the end, you have to believe the most in yourself and not care about what they’re saying about you.”
He is confident, for example, that with the current Mercedes, he would be matching Nico Rosberg and even Lewis Hamilton.
“Definitely. 100 per cent for sure,” said Verstappen. “If I had a chance like that, I don’t think I would have trouble making the most of it.”
He has already been linked with a sensational move to Ferrari, and even the 17-year-old is not ruling it out.
“I don’t know,” said Verstappen when asked if he will be at Toro Rosso in 2016. “If other opportunities come up, of course I will think about it.
“At the moment I am happy where I am. As for next year, I don’t know. I have a contract with Red Bull but it’s difficult to predict what will happen.”
© RIF | GMM