2016 FORMULA 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
As Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo,
Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and the
others complete their warm-up lap to the
grid, tension rising, all eyes on the gantry
lights, the freeze-framing of their differing
situations, personalities, attitudes and
motivations comes into sharp focus.
Vettel’s at his best if he gets out front,
running like the wind, flat-out, eating into
his resources early to build up a margin,
then coolly monitoring from there.
Alonso, if he has the car to support
him, comes through with a relentless,
Some of the old stars didn’t like it that a
17-year-old kid could be an F1 driver. But
they were missing the point: it’s not the
number of days that are significant, but
the number of ways he has of prevailing.
Chief among these is a quite amazing
feel for routinely braking at the absolute
outer edges of possibility, allowing him to
do that most rare thing in F1: overtake.
He does it by ambush. Only rarely will you
see him flick out from tight behind the
rear wing of the car in front and try for a
50/50 move. Instead, it’s usually done
from a long way back, when the other
guy isn’t expecting it. By the time they’ve
registered Max in their peripheral vision,
the move has already happened.
He can do it this way because he has
the sensitivity of how much pedal
pressure he can maintain as the car is
decelerating and the downforce is
bleeding off, without surrendering too
The Max Verstappen overtake
Con icting psyches, competitive agendas
Max Verstappen is still a teenager,
but his naturally unorthodox
approach to overtaking has
marked him out as a star.
Born to do it
much braking, but without locking up,
either. He can combine this with the
building lateral forces as he turns into the
corner to have the car sliding up to the
apex, scrubbing some of the excess speed
off while still fully in control, so that by
the time he’s arrived at the apex, he isn’t
going to run wide.
In this way he actually drives the car
differently than when simply lapping
flat-out – taking what would normally be
too much speed into the first part of the
braking zone to get himself alongside the
other car, but then using his sensitivity to
control the consequences of that.
Similarly, his ease with having the rear
of the car loose in the first part of the slow
turns allows him to get pointed at the apex
early, with the slide corrected and the
power on at parts of the track where
others would still be fighting to get pointed
at the apex. This buys him lap time.
bludgeoning energy that just never lets
up, and can adapt to any trait that the
car and tires give him.
Ricciardo is that sparkling,
up-and-at-’em package of brio, and if he
gets anywhere close is going to put the big
move on the car in front, while Button, if
demands of the race play out right, can
apparently hypnotize the car. He’ll squeeze
speed from it that leaves no bruises,
making smart on-the-hoof calls from the
cockpit in conditions of changing grip
when his silken skills come into their own.
Getting to the checkered flag as fast
as possible is the aim, but every driver
has their own way of doing it.
Cult of personality