Belgian GP: Preview - Red Bull


We're headed to Spa! Is this your favourite track on the calendar?
Max Verstappen: I love Spa, it's my favourite circuit on the calendar so I'm always looking forward to driving there. It's a bit more old school as well so there's not too much run off in some places. The elevation changes throughout the whole track, you go up and down and there are not too many slow corners, which is always very nice in an F1 car because you really get to experience the full speed and the middle sector at Spa gives you that.

What is your favourite part of the track?
MV: My favourite part of the track is Pouhon especially, the fast left hander, it's really fast. Getting the balance right in sectors one, two and three with the long straight and infield is crucial and so there are always compromises here and there. You're also running quite low downforce, so low wing, which means the car is really alive and moving around which makes it more exciting.

Spa marks the start of the next triple header. What are your thoughts heading into the Belgian Grand Prix?
MV: We're second in the Teams' and Drivers' Championship so now we just need to try and keep the momentum going. There are lots of long straights which of course means you can overtake here, but also I expect the guys behind us in qualifying will be very close and knowing Mercedes have a lot of power they will obviously be very quick too.

Do you think this track will pose one of our toughest challenges yet?
MV: Over the last few years it has been a bit up and down in terms of results for us but you never know. We don't expect this race will be our favourite this year in terms of the layout suiting our package but we will be pushing hard as we have done at every race and maximising the result as a Team.

How much are you going to miss the 'Orange Army' this weekend?
MV: The Orange Army are normally out in full force at Spa so it's a shame we won't have any fans this year but hopefully they will enjoy the race at home on TV and I hope everyone will like my new special edition Spa cap for this weekend.

Has it been good to have a weekend off?
MV: It's been nice to have a weekend off, especially after the triple header which you can't just keep on doing all the time, so hopefully everybody in the Team has enjoyed a rest and is recharged, ready to go again!

Two triple headers, six races, seven weeks. How busy has the season been so far?
Alex Albon: It's been busy! But it's always busy in Formula One. Obviously we're in the full swing of the season now and the races are coming thick and fast. With six races under our belt we know the areas we need to work on and the guys at the factory are working flat out to make the car better, faster but also easier to drive. Everything's going pretty well, we are improving step by step and experimenting on what works and what doesn't, just like everyone else.

How have you spent your week off before the next triple header?
AA: I've not been up to much, I've just spent the week relaxing and recharging the batteries. The triple headers are pretty hectic so it's been good to relax and of course keep fit, but driving regularly also does that. It's just about maintaining it, staying sharp and keeping the weight off for the engineers!

How does a Formula One driver relax?
AA: Well, like everyone else your options are fairly limited with the quarantine and COVID situation. We've been extra careful and basically just stayed indoors where possible, cooking our own meals, watching Netflix, the usual things. We've been doing a bit of hiking which is fun actually, if you fancy a workout then you can run up the mountain instead, just to get the heart rate up!

This week's Belgian Grand Prix is where you made your debut for Red Bull! Can you believe it's been a year already?
AA: No, it's crazy! It's gone fast, that's for sure. It definitely doesn't feel like a year. I'm looking forward to this weekend, I can take what I learned from last year's race and apply it to this one so there's a bit of experience that I can take with me which is nice. We already had ideas last year and I remember how the car felt – of course it's a different car this year but it's still got similar traits so it'll be good to compare and see what we can do. As we've seen this season, we've had some really good races and Spa is good for overtaking so I'm excited to hit the track and get going. I have good memories from last year so hopefully we can do a good job this year – Spa is a nice track and it's one of the best ones we go to, it's iconic.

This time last year, you'd just collected your new team kit and didn't even know your mechanic's names! How different is it heading to Spa this time around?
AA: I was pretty nervous going into my first race with the Team. Obviously you want to do a good job because you want to make a good impression. I didn't know anyone, and I'd only been in F1 for six months with Toro Rosso, so going to a big team was obviously very new to me. Now I know everyone, I'm settled in with the Team, we're making progress each weekend, so it's nice to go back to the circuit where it all started.

Last year you charged through the field to fifth after a PU grid penalty. What are you expecting this weekend?
AA: I remember this weekend last year and even though the Team didn't give me any pressure, you know you want to do well and do the best job possible so to have a race like last year was pretty special. For this year, well firstly, the ban on qualifying modes has been moved back to Monza, so let's see how that plays out. I don't expect this weekend will be easy as Spa is pretty straight-line dependent and Mercedes are very strong power-wise. That being said, in Silverstone we didn't expect much and we were flying there so let's see! It's not always clear where the advantage lies at each circuit with temperatures, tyres, etc but I really enjoy Spa, it's a nice track that I don't think has suited us that well in the past, but we've seen this season is full of surprises so let's get out there and see where everyone stacks up.

Christian Horner: Max's second place finish in Spain was another great drive and once again splitting the two Mercedes cars was the maximum we could achieve in that race. That said, it was encouraging that we came out of the second triple header with a win and two second place finishes.

Max's podium in Barcelona made it 175 for the Team and I have been present for all of them! I certainly remember the first because David Coulthard achieved that podium in Monaco and it cost me a jump into a swimming pool with just a Superman cape to wear! I don't think I will be forgetting that one in a hurry, and of course, we have every single trophy in reception at the factory as a daily reminder of why we are all here.

So, Monaco 2006 was the first one but we actually came very close in our first year, in 2005, to achieving it at the European Grand Prix held at the Nurburgring. David was leaving the pit lane and a Minardi pulled out alongside him. He just released the pit limiter a fraction too early and it cost him a penalty, otherwise that would have been a podium.

But 175 is quite a tally. Particularly because in its previous incarnation, the Team only had two podiums. So since Red Bull entered the sport in 2005, to achieve 175 podiums is testimony to all the hard work that has been put in. There are some great memories and although we take the opportunity to celebrate every podium the focus is always on the next race, not the last one.

A key aspect of the race in Spain was the Team once again setting the record for the fastest pit stop. This year the crew have set the fastest pit stop time at each of the six races and it means strategically you come to rely on your pit crew to make a quick stop. What is the secret? It is a combination of factors starting with our Sporting Director, Jonathan Wheatley and Chief Mechanic, Phil Turner plus the training regime that our human performance team put in place and the stability we have in our Team.

There is a real pride in perfecting those pit stops. Everyone wants to be on that pit crew and there is a healthy competition for those places. It is a bit like being at school and being selected for the first team. There is a sense of pride to be part of that list.

It is all about focusing on the details, practising, working on marginal gains and addressing any issues in order to achieve consistency because there is no point doing a world record stop and then doing five slower stops. We run a well-oiled machine and we also had a little bit of a boost this year from our lubricant partner ExxonMobil who supplied us with a new wheel gun lubricant to further increase our performance.

Last week, it was confirmed that all 10 teams signed the new Concorde Agreement. Negotiations were lengthy, especially given the global challenges facing the sport but in some respects they were also remarkably straightforward in comparison with previous years. Negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone in the past was always good fun, always a bit different, but Liberty were scrupulously fair with the negotiations and we were in fact the first team to sign it in Barcelona.

You have to take a holistic view on these things. That is what the agreement was, that is what Chase Carey and Liberty were putting on the table and it was up to the teams if they chose to take it or leave it. There was of course back and forth on certain points and there are elements that please some teams more than others, but in the end everyone came to agree on the best way forward for the good of the sport.

It is an important agreement for F1 and although the details are confidential, it provides stability and continuity for the future so we are pleased to get it over the line.

Liberty have definitely achieved some good things for the sport in terms of opening it up and generating interest from a new fan base which can only be a positive. The most important challenge now is getting the 2022 regulations right to promote better racing.

With Sunday spent away from the racetrack, after enjoying a day with the family I put my feet up at home and decided to watch the Indy 500. It was all shaping up for an exciting finish and then there was a huge crash when Spencer Pigot hit the edge of the pit wall. It was a relief to everyone to see Spencer out of the car and I was pleased to see that the Aeroscreen once again did its job and protected him. It is a great testimony to the work carried out by the engineers at Red Bull Advanced Technologies in conjunction with IndyCar. We are all racers at heart and are proud to be part of the campaign to protect drivers and increase safety in motorsport.

The result was also a huge success for Honda, so congratulations to them for achieving a podium lockout and win the 104th Indy 500 with Takuma Sato. Hopefully, we can replicate that in some of our future races.

Our focus now switches to Spa and then Monza - two weekends that are traditionally quite hard races for us. Both tracks have been a strong hunting ground for Mercedes for a few years but the way Max is driving this season has been phenomenal. We need a bit of luck but hopefully we can have a competitive weekend in Spa.

For Alex, this marks his one year anniversary with the Team and he has changed a lot in 12 months. He is growing in experience and more confident with his feedback in what he feels the car is doing. If you look at his race performances for the past 12 months, they have been great and he impresses us every week with his ballsy overtakes, that is something we have always looked for in our drivers and he certainly has what it takes.

Lewis has been his nemesis in terms of a podium in Brazil and even a victory in Austria in the first race this year and to get one of these under his belt would have done wonders for his confidence.

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Published: 26/08/2020
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