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Newey: Verstappen's mental capacity similar to other true F1 greats

Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey says Max Verstappen’s “almost subconscious” ability to drive Formula 1 cars puts him alongside the championship’s other great drivers.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing celebrates with Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing

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In winning the 2023 world championship, Verstappen joined a list of 10 other drivers to have won more than two titles. 

If Red Bull can maintain its position at the head of the pecking order until the current ruleset ends in 2026, Verstappen would theoretically have five titles – rarefied status in the elite world champions’ club, as only Juan Manuel Fangio, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher have five F1 world titles or more. 

As an F1 legend in his own right thanks to car designs he has been involved with winning 25 F1 drivers’ and constructors’ championships in a 40-plus-year motorsport career, Newey is uniquely placed to comment on Verstappen’s position alongside his fellow multi-title winners. 

In an exclusive interview with Autosport, Newey initially acknowledge such thoughts were “very difficult – because it’s different areas, different cars etc”.  

But he added: “I think Max, like all the truly great drivers, you have the impression that he can drive the car almost subconsciously.  

“And that then leaves him with plenty of processing power to think about what the car is doing. 

“[That means] how he can modify his driving to suit the car, how he can change the set-up via the electronic tools on the steering wheel to assist him in what he’s trying to achieve at that particular point in the race and the particular deg the tyres are suffering and whatever.  

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

“Basically, to read a race the whole way through.  

“And I think that is something that he’s kind of had when he first came into Formula 1, but perhaps he’s really been able to develop to a very high level now.  

“So, that kind of ability to drive the car extremely quickly, but still have constant reserve is something which Max very clearly has and I would say all the true greats that I’ve worked with have also been the same.” 

When asked if Verstappen was an easy driver to work with, Newey replied: “Yeah, he’s a very easy driver to work with.  

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“He’s demanding, of course, absolutely. But his feedback is good – it’s not over complicated.  

“He knows how to express what he wants out of the car. And then with GP [Gianpiero Lambiase, Red Bull chief engineer], his race engineer, has trust that we will come up with solutions.  

“We don’t always – Singapore [in 2023 and Red Bull’s only defeat of the campaign just gone] being the example! But, we do our best.”

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