Mas Verstappen says he is entering his second Formula One season “a bit more relaxed”, with the Toro Rosso driver not only more familiar with the procedures but also “much fitter”.
One year on from his historic F1 debut aged 17, the Dutchman now is one of the most touted drivers after delivering very strong performances in his rookie campaign.
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko recently warned that “the second season is sometimes trickier than the first”, especially amid rising expectations. Asked about his mindset ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen replied:
“It’s a bit more relaxed I would say. You experience the first season and from there on with the experience you have you just know what’s coming a bit more.
“Of course it’s still a new season, new cars, some new drivers around, but you know how to build up a racing weekend much more than when I was here last year. So that helps a lot.”
Verstappen is only entering his third full campaign in single-seaters following his meteoritic rise from Formula 3 to F1. In order to further improve, the 18-year-old has stepped up his preparations over the winter, becoming physically stronger while also shedding weight.
“Well you always want to be as light as you can but in a safe way. Together with the team I think we did the right thing. We’re healthy and everything is working fine.
“Sometimes when you see like an ice cream going by and you’re like ‘I wish I could take one now’ but in the end you’re an athlete as well so you have to behave like one.
“I feel much better than last year. Much fitter, even though last year I never had any problems but you always want to improve don’t you? So it’s not only the car that needs to improve it’s also the person themselves.”