MAX Verstappen will start season 2018 on the back foot because of a new F1 regulation that does the Dutchman no favours.
All cars on the grid this year will boast a “halo” — the safety feature designed to provide added cockpit protection for drivers. Many drivers have criticised the innovation for ruining the appearance of their four-wheelers and Verstappen is no different, labelling it “very ugly”.
But looks aside, the halo presents a very different problem for the 20-year-old. Standing at 1.80m tall and weighing approximately 67kg, Verstappen is one of the taller, heavier drivers on the circuit. The halo will reportedly add roughly 6kg to the car, making an already weighty RB14 even heavier.
But the Red Bull star isn’t planning on adopting any crazy diets to shed extra kilos from his frame to accommodate the safety feature.
“Because the halo is quite heavy, it will be more than 6kg, it’s definitely not favourable for me,” Verstappen said in an interview with Red Bull. “I’m not looking forward to that.
“But I am not going to adjust my training for it, because otherwise I won’t feel well during the races. Especially for me being a taller driver and also a bit of a heavier driver than most, it’s definitely not ideal.”
Verstappen finished sixth in the drivers’ championship last year, 32 points behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo. After suffering a glut of technical failures in the opening half of the season — at one stage he retired from three races in a row — the young gun bounced back to win two grands prix in Malaysia and Mexico in the back half of the year.
Red Bull came in third in the constructors’ standings, well behind second-placed Ferrari, who finished 154 points ahead of the energy drink team. A slow start to the season was plagued by car troubles and meant the Milton Keynes based outfit was never a realistic chance of challenging the Scuderia or eventual champion Mercedes for the top gong, and Verstappen isn’t ready to crow about his team’s chances of overtaking its main rivals this year.
“I don’t know yet (if Red Bull can beat Ferrari and Mercedes),” Verstappen said. “We have to approach it as good as we can.
“You never know how good a job the team has done compared to the other teams so at the moment I have no expectations because you don’t know where you are until testing and the first race — then you really know where you are.”
Ricciardo is a little more confident in his employer’s chances of causing an upset in 2018. The Aussie’s 2017 season started in the worst possible fashion at his home grand prix in Melbourne when his car let him down, and a lack of power in the early stages prevented him from getting near the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
But as Red Bull continued to tweak its car, Ricciardo’s fortunes improved. He stood on the podium five times in a row between the Spanish Grand Prix and Austrian Grand Prix and sees no reason why he and Verstappen can’t benefit from further improvement this upcoming campaign.
“There’s a good intensity. Everyone’s not getting too excited. We know we’ve got some work to do if we want to really achieve what we want so we all know we’ve got some desires to attack this year,” Ricciardo said in an interview with Red Bull.
“I believe so (Red Bull can challenge Mercedes and Ferrari) … We improved the car quite a lot last year so on principle we should be able to carry that over to this year and keep on evolving so we should be able to fight more often.
“Time will tell, but I’m confident.”
The 2018 F1 season gets underway in Melbourne on March 25.