“We have been working really hard all winter to be able to start the year in a better fashion compared to last year and now it’s time to find out if it’s true or not.”
Verstappen has enough experience – this is his sixth season in the top division – to know that testing does not always tell the whole truth.
“I don’t really look too much at the times, and you don’t know what other people are running. More runs have been done on different days, some days were very windy, some were not, some days were very cloudy, some were sunny, so it’s difficult to tell,” he said.
“We just try to do our own program, which I think we pretty much did. [We] evolved it, we were happy about it, it always seems you could have done better.
“But I am just looking forward to getting started so we don’t have to keep answering all those questions about winter testing … it’s not really representative, everybody is just doing their own program.”
Verstappen holds the record for the youngest race winner – he was 18 years and 277 days when he won in Spain in 2016 – and he is looking to become the youngest man to hold the title this season.
Lewis Hamilton has dominated the sport since Verstappen first came into F1 in 2015, the year he set another landmark as the youngest driver (at 17) when he made his bow in Melbourne.
To achieve his aim the Red Bull star has to overcome the man who is chasing greatness himself this season. If Hamilton can win eight races he will overhaul Michael Schumacher’s career total of 91 race wins, and if he can take another title he will equal Schumacher’s championship haul of seven.
Still, Verstappen, who now has the perfect blend of youth and experience, is undaunted.
“Lewis has been winning a lot, Mercedes has been winning a lot … as a team we try to make it difficult for them. Lewis and the team both do a great job so it’s now up to us to try to give them a harder time,” he said.
Verstappen was also a vocal critic last season of Ferrari’s engine, at one point accusing the fabled Italian team of cheating. He was more circumspect on Wednesday when asked whether he felt the same way as the new campaign looms.
“I leave it up to the teams. For everyone I think it’s important for us to have a level playing field. That’s what we all want, that’s all I can say about it,” he said.
“I think they [governing body FIA] in the past have been making the right decisions so let’s see what the teams and the FIA come up with.”
Verstappen will this season partner with Alex Albon, who stepped up from Red Bull’s junior squad Toro Rosso (now Alpha Tauri) near the end of the 2019 campaign.
Albon finished between fourth and sixth in eight of his nine races for Red Bull last year when, in his debut season, he amassed 92 points and finished eighth in the driver’s championship. His aims are not quite as lofty as Verstappen’s but he is looking to post improvement with experience.
“This time last year it was that first race feeling, but the car feels good over winter testing, the car feels ready, so it’s fine tuning now,” Albon said.
“I am up there in a good car in a good team, so it is different, but the approach doesn’t really change … not thinking about certain goals, end of season, podiums, that sort of thing. It obviously would be nice, but that’s not how I view each session or go into my racing. It’s step by step and I am working on areas I need to work on.”
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing