Max Verstappen is understood to have been motivated by the early victories of teammate Sergio Perez, which fueled his 2023 charge.
The Dutchman claimed yet another Pole Position in Qatar as he inches closer to a third World Championship. However, the extent of Verstappen’s dominance this year was not predicted when the season began.
Red Bull has always been the favourite this year, to be sure, with even pre-season testing showing the RB19’s supremacy. Even if the true extent of Red Bull’s advantage was unknown, there were certainly indications that Adrian Newey’s team could extend their advantage.
The opening rounds of the year seemed to validate the expectations of the Austrian team. However, Sergio Perez was more than competitive in the early rounds. Two victories in four races saw the Mexican floated as a potential title contender.
Although these suggestions were always premature and somewhat reactionary, it was true that Perez performed at a high level. Moreover, even when Checo could not match Verstappen, the gap was reasonably close between the two drivers.
This, of course, changed quickly. According to reports from Erik van Haren, the Mexican driver’s victory in Baku was a turning point for Verstappen’s approach.
To be clear, the 25-year-old always had supreme confidence that he could secure the World title. As mentioned previously, his teammate was prematurely declared a candidate for the Championship.
However, it is also established that Verstappen took some time to understand the RB19 and its behaviours fully. Adapting his driving style to optimise Red Bull’s package was a crucial element of his progression in 2023.
The media speculation that Perez could challenge him, according to sources close to his camp, added fuel to his fire. Frankly, few would be surprised that such intensity and drive form part of the Double World Champion’s personality.
In any case, looking ahead to this weekend, Verstappen has the chance to cement himself in the F1 history books further.