"I am very happy at the moment where I am because I think it's a very exciting project. Everybody is looking in the same direction, everybody wants the same thing - everybody wants to win, everybody in the team are winners. You can feel that mentality is there. I think the team is definitely coming on very strong."
When Max Verstappen spoke these words to us in late August, 2019, it seemed like the sort of carefully considered banality you would expect any contracted Formula 1 driver to say about their current team. At the time, speculation Max would refuse to see out the final year of his Red Bull contract and make a sensational switch to Mercedes had just been quashed by Toto Wolff's decision to retain Valtteri Bottas and farm Esteban Ocon out to Renault. Max would be staying put after all.
Red Bull had been on this rodeo before, of course, offering Verstappen a highly lucrative contract - understood to have made him then the third-highest-paid driver in F1 - at the back end of 2017 to ward off supposed interest from Mercedes. The late Niki Lauda even poked fun at fellow Austrian Helmut Marko in a subsequent TV interview, suggesting playfully that Red Bull had rushed into agreeing new terms out of fear of losing Verstappen, even though Mercedes had "never offered him a contract" and "never talked to him about money".