Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has suggested that any pressure on Max Verstappen will have been alleviated now that he has won a world title, and he does not believe the Dutchman will feel the weight of the champion label.
Verstappen claimed 10 wins and took 18 podiums in 2021 en route to one of the most dramatic title-deciders in Formula 1 history at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and he will have the number one on his car heading into 2022.
The Aston Martin driver claimed his maiden championship at the Yas Marina Circuit in 2010, and his victory there was the first time he had led the Drivers’ Standings all year.
He would go on to claim another 29 wins in the next three seasons as he took four titles on the spin with the Milton Keynes squad, so he knows better than most what winning the ultimate prize does for a driver’s confidence.
“From what I remember, it is a boost. It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders and it is a great feeling to start the season as a world champion,” he said, as per The Independent.
“You have the number one on your car, which is a privilege and we would all like to be in that position. I didn’t see it as an extra burden, but a boost, and Max will probably feel the same.”
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took both of his world tiles consecutively in 2005 and 2006 under their previous guise as Renault, and he agrees with 1978 champion Mario Andretti’s sentiment that there is more enjoyment to be had for a racer once they have their first accolade.
“You start the season with less pressure because you have already accomplished one of your dreams. From now on, it is more fun and you go into the races knowing that you have already won the world championship once,” added the Spaniard.
“Of course, you always try to fight for the second title, but if anything there will be less pressure on Max.”
Red Bull set 776 laps between Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez during pre-season testing in Barcelona and Bahrain, and the Dutchman is excited to see how his team’s performance stacks up against the rest in the wake of a huge change to the technical regulations.
“We learnt a lot at testing in Barcelona and Bahrain and I’m very excited to turn our attention to racing now,” he explained.
“Everything is so new so there are a lot of unknowns heading into the first race of the season and I’m looking forward to seeing where we are compared to the rest of the grid come qualifying on Saturday.
“The car looks good and as a team we are in a good place.”
As a result of his title victory last year, the 24-year-old has been rewarded with a new contract that keeps him with Red Bull until the end of 2028 and is reportedly worth $250 million.