Consequently, despite finishing third in the Drivers’ Championship and claiming three wins and his first ever F1 poles, Max Verstappen feels: “It’s been good, but it could’ve been better.
“The start of the year was a bit tricky for us,” he admits as he reflects on 2019, “because we couldn’t fight at the top, but we always maximised the results and then we started to really kick in. We had some crazy fun and good races. This saw a rise in confidence across the entire team and was a massive boost for everyone.”
The youngster partly attributes the team’s slow start to the aero changes introduced this year.
“The new wing took a bit of time to work out,” he admits, “but then over the course of the season we got used to it.
“Throughout the season we have improved both the car and engine and I’m very pleased with that, because at the end of the day if you want to fight for a world championship, you can’t retire. We took five engine changes, but they were for upgrades, not for an engine being worn out, which is a good thing.”
Asked about the highs, he is in no doubt.
“Of course, it was the wins in Austria and Germany – which was just a crazy and hectic race – but Austria, was perfect, it couldn’t have gone better.
“It’s not an easy place to overtake, but it was great to win at Red Bull‘s home track, it was the first win for Honda in the V6 era, and there were a lot of Dutch fans there, it was perfect!
“It was a massive boost for everyone,” he admits “This has been my best season. As a person you always grow, you become a better driver throughout the years and learn a lot. Not only in driving, but in life, so I can say this has been my best season.
“There weren’t any lows,” he adds, “there were just unlucky moments. Overall, it’s been positive and everyone is very excited about next year.
“After the summer break we had some unlucky runs, but we started to pick it up again. We always kept believing and pushing hard as a team. We always seem to make the right decisions when we’re under pressure, which is a big bonus.
“What was important to me was that we had a reliable engine, something we’ve struggled with in the past,” he continues, “and we didn’t retire once because of a Honda issue. That’s something we need if we want to fight for the world championship.
“I am really impressed with how Honda work. There is no limit, they will do everything for you. There’s a lot of potential there.
“Throughout this year every goal they set, or everything they promised, they delivered and more. That’s what you want to see, so I’m very happy we’re continuing the partnership and I hope we can go even further next year.”
Asked about his plans for the break, he says: “I’ll be doing a lot of sim racing and try to compete in some championships next year as well. I race under my own name, so some people I compete against are harder on me and others are nicer.
“It’s great. I was on the sim after Brazil and some people wrote me messages in the chat, saying well done and that it was cool to be racing with me online… it’s nice, I find it very relaxing, you have your headphones on and are chatting to friends online, not always about racing!
“My 24-hour race win in sim racing was my highlight off the track this year,” he admits, “there was a lot of drama involved.”
Back in the real world, he says: “This season was very positive, the consistency was overall good and we ended the season strong.
“We maximised the results at the start of the season even when we weren’t winning, but our strategy was good and if we keep that up next year it will be an exciting season.
“Mercedes is the dominant team,” he acknowledges, “and we are still behind because there are a few things missing from the car. I think we can also find more performance in the engine, but everybody wants to improve, and I’m the same. We don’t want to be on the same level as them, we want to be ahead of them.
“We all want to win, we have the winners’ mentality in this team and we want to get back to those days of Red Bull dominance. We want to win more races, which hopefully means we’ll be fighting for the title.”