Verstappen’s meteoric rise in F1 took another trajectory when he won his first race with Red Bull in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix as an 18-year-old, but further success was harder to come by in an era dominated by Mercedes.
The 2017 rules reset kept Mercedes at the front, with Ferrari becoming the Brackley team’s most regular challenger while Red Bull’s Renault engine deal turned sour and a 2019 gamble to partner with Honda didn’t immediately pay off.
While Verstappen’s mercurial talent allowed him to take sporadic wins, it took until the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix for the Dutchman to grab a maiden pole position, of which he has now amassed 22.
Red Bull finally started matching Mercedes in 2021 and then stole a march on the entire field with the 2022ground effect regulations, with Verstappen a firm favourite to take a third consecutive world title.
Looking back on Red Bull’s leaner years, Verstappen says his five-year wait for title success with the Milton Keynes outfit has taught him to be patient.
When asked if he ever had doubts about the Red Bull project, he replied. «Not doubts, but you have to be patient.
«I think I learned a lot of patience over the years, but I always believed in the project because of how I saw people working, and how motivated they were to really get back on top.
Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
«You cannot force it and just say, you know, we were the third best team at some point and say we need to win now. It’s a process and then you get a few people in maybe different positions, you get a good group together.
Verstappen explained that once Red Bull’s engine struggles with Renault were over, he started to feel the team «was heading into something» as Honda started producing more potent power units.
«At some point, it just clicked from one to the other year, you really made a jump forward,» he added.
«Of course, afterwards it is easy to say: ‘Yeah, I saw it coming, blah, blah.’ You don’t know, but I did trust the process we were in because I did feel that we were heading into something.
«We had a few years with engine deals falling apart and then it was just a bit of a struggle. Sometimes we had quite a decent package, but then lacked a bit of top speed. And that made it all very hard to really show the true potential.
«And then when Honda came along, again it was a bit of work in progress. But then after a year, I think we already became very competitive, and it was just great to see.»