The Red Bull pilot – who aged 18 became the youngest driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix in 2016 in Spain – is gearing up for the curtain-raising race of the season, the Australian GP in Melbourne this weekend.
Verstappen – who added two further victories to his tally in last year’s championship to sweeten the frustrations of seven retirements – told The Guardian he never pauses to consider how strong he is feeling mentally.
“I never even think of the mental side of things because I never had any issues,” said Verstappen, who is now 20.
“If you are a bit weak in your head maybe you can train your mind but it will never be your strong point.
“Many people ask: ‘What do you need mentally to succeed in F1?’ I say: ‘What do you mean mentally?’ I just enjoy it and drive as fast I can.
“But so many people think your psychology is such a massive thing. For me, it’s not necessary.”
Verstappen, whose father Jos also competed in Formula One, had an incredible record in karting racing of 68 wins in his first 70 races. He says that early success shaped his enormous self-belief.
“You always have to believe in yourself and I had that from karting,” said Verstappen.
“I was never one of those kids saying: ‘Is it all going to be all right?’ If you start doubting yourself like that, thinking: ‘Am I good enough?’ – maybe there is a reason you’re thinking that.”
Verstappen, who finished sixth in last year’s championship with 168 points, says he is pleased with what he has seen of this year’s car and even dares to hope it is better than the one which saw him finish last season with two victories in the last six races.
“I hope it will be better than that,” said Verstappen.
“I’m very happy with the progress but we have to wait until Melbourne to see where we are.”
As for whether he will one day be crowned world champion, he is more circumspect.
“I always think if I have the right car, the fastest car, then I can become world champion,” said Verstappen.
“But you need to have that car and so far I haven’t had the fastest package.”
Provided by AFP Sport
Last year’s Abu Dhabi Red Bull Air Race winner Martin Sonka admits he doesn’t mind if he can’t replicate his win on Saturday as long as he gives 100 per cent effort.
Sonka could not have asked for a better start to the 2017 campaign when the Czech stormed to victory at the Abu Dhabi Corniche.
That was one of two triumphs as well as two podium finishes. Yet, he missed out on the title to Yoshihide Muroya by four points in the standings.
Sonka will be one of 13 pilots who will be going at top speed of 370kmph on Friday and Saturday and whether he repeat his success or not, he has vowed to give nothing but the best.
“What I expect is hopefully to give my maximum effort and be happy with my performance,” he said. “That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to predict anything on the results because it’s a new season and everyone is coming in with new modifications. Each pilot has had their own preparation whether that’s flying or mentally. The season opener will be a good point to see where all the teams are and what to expect for the rest of the season. We will try our best to give a good result.”
Sonka will be making his sixth appearance in the UAE capital and believes the Abu Dhabi race continues to go from strength to strength.
“The sport is growing so much and it’s becoming more professional and definitely a big success here,” he said.
“What stays the same is the beauty of Abu Dhabi and after the winter break, to come here from Czech Republic where it’s cold and fly in the beautiful Corniche Bay is truly amazing.
“The very special thing about Abu Dhabi is that it’s the first race of the season so there are always expectations and good platform to build on for the season ahead.”
Defending champion Yoshihide Muroya is not placing any pressure on himself and expects stern competition from his rivals when the new Red Bull Air Race Championship begins in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Muroya, 45, will go into the season-opener at Abu Dhabi Corniche as the man to beat after entering the record books last year to become the first Japanese and Asian world champion.
He faces a tough task following in the footsteps of retired star Paul Bonhomme, who is the only man to defend his title in successive seasons. However, Muroya insists he is relishing the challenge in a competition which will see pilots race at high speeds of up to 370kph with forces up to 10G.
“There’s no pressure on me just because I’m the world champion,” he said. “It’s a new season and it will be challenging every race that we compete in. Every single year and race, the pilots get faster so it will not be easy. We went faster than last year and it’s important to keep focused and stick to our plan and I think it will be a good and exciting season.
“Everybody is asking me how to defend a championship but it’s 2018 and 2017 is history. I cannot think about that now. There is a new set of teams and modifications.”
While 13 other Master Class pilots are standing in his way of glory, Muroya and the rest of the field will have to adhere to new rule changes for the upcoming campaign.
Among the main change is allowing pilots to continue racing rather than earning a ‘did not finish’ result if they exceed the G-Force limit in any of their two laps.
Muroya, whose worst finish was 13th in both Abu Dhabi and Russia last year, believes the new rules will make the competition more challenging than previous years.
“It’s a new season and with the new rules, it will be challenging in every race,” he said, who finished ahead of 2017 Abu Dhabi winner by four points in the overall standings.
“Every year the championship is getting tighter and tigher. Last year we won the title on the very last flight and it will be harder this time. We expect it to be challenging again.”
— Denzil M Pinto (@denz_360) January 31, 2018
In 2017, Muroya was on top of the podium in four of the eight races with his highlight victory coming last June when he reigned supreme on his home turf in Chiba.
“Since I’ve won the championship, I’ve become more recognisable and have people coming to me for autographs and pictures,” said Muroya.
“It’s nice to make Japan proud and hope to do that again in the future.”